Who? Bozena Michalowska-Howells, 49, a partner in the consumer law and product safety group at London firm Leigh Day.
Why is she in the news? She is acting for around 2,150 owners of Volkswagen (VW) diesel vehicles that had been marketed as low-emission with good fuel economy.
Up to 11 million VW cars – across Europe and the US – are to be recalled after it emerged that many had been fitted with a ‘defeat device’ to cheat emissions tests. Many could also require new injectors and catalysers.
VW has said that it plans to fix all affected cars by the end of 2016. In the meantime, owners and fleet managers find themselves with assets that are unsaleable unless offered at a much-reduced price.
VW has admitted that some customers will need ‘serious interventions’ to parts of their vehicle. ‘Which cars and what interventions? How will anyone be able to sell an affected car without knowing this essential information?’ says Michalowska-Howells.
Thoughts on the case: ‘Emissions affect the entire population and the clean air legislation is there to protect the public’s health. VW has shown contempt for regulators and customers, who have invested in a vehicle which, they believed, has a good reputation and high resale value.’
Dealing with the media: ‘This is a news-driven case. My job is to put across my clients’ outrage.’
Why become a lawyer? ‘The law ticked lots of boxes for me: contributing to society, helping people and making a difference to people’s lives.’
Career high: ‘Bringing claims on behalf of Poles living in the UK who had been slave labourers in Germany and Austria during the second world war. My mother had been in a labour camp, my father in the Polish underground.’
Career low: ‘Losing a case in the House of Lords which we had brought against the English Geological Survey for not testing for arsenic when giving a clean bill of health to the water supply in a part of Bangladesh.
‘The arsenic in the drinking water led to many problems, including increased risk of cancer and skin deformations.’