An 83-year-old great-grandmother died after an illegally sold cigarette filter got lodged in her throat, a court heard.
Alice Davies, of High Field Place, Hemsworth, used the plastic filter on the end of the cigarette to reduce the amount of tar she ingested when smoking. But she coughed while using the device and it became detached and got lodged in her throat.
She died following complications a few weeks later.
Legacy Enterprises, based in Manchester, had imported the filters from China but they did not meet European safety requirements. The air-hole, which all small items require in case of accidental swallowing, was not big enough.
The company’s director Taranjit Singh appeared at Wakefield Magistrates’ Court on Friday, after admitting placing the product on the market when it was not safe.
Mrs Davies’ family, who said they were “devastated” by her death, said in court they did not hold the company entirely responsible for her death.
They are also pursuing a complaint against Pontefract Hospital, after they were twice turned away before Mrs Davies was finally admitted for treatment after the incident in February last year.
Mrs Davies – who had six children - was told twice it would pass through her system naturally. But her family were not happy with their decision.
Her daughter, Jean Thomas, 63, of Bush Street, Hemsworth, said: “This has devastated the whole family.
“I could hear her gasping for breath and a whistling noise when she spoke, which was coming from the tiny hole in the filter. We knew it was lodged in her throat.”
She said her mother was in such distress she could not lie down and had several more coughing fits.
They took her back to the walk-in centre at Pontefract several days later where she was admitted. But there were no beds available so she had to be taken to Dewsbury. After hours of waiting, the filter was removed from her bronchus.
But during the three days of having the plastic in her body, her family said she suffered a collapsed lung and she had infections in her lungs.
Her health deteriorated rapidly and she died in Dewsbury Hospital on March 1, 2011.
Ms Thomas said: “My mum knew it was there but the hospital doesn’t seem to care about old people, they don’t listen to them.
“She would still be here today if they had listened.”
An inquest into Mrs Davies’ death at Dewsbury Coroner’s Court last month recorded a verdict of accidental death. A postmortem examination revealed she died from a combination of pneumonia, the inhalation of a foreign body and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - a pre-consisting lung condition.
Ms Thomas said: “Before all of this happened she was happy, strong, and self sufficient and would have lived at least another ten years. It wasn’t her time to go. We put our trust in the hospital, and sadly it was misplaced. When I visited my mum after she had died I promised I would get answers and apologies.”
Tracey McErlain-Burns, chief nurse and director of patient experience at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, said she had already met with the family, and a further meeting was being set up.
She added: “My condolences once again for their sad loss.”
l Legacy Enterprises director Taranjit Singh pleaded guilty to placing the product on the market when it was not safe; failing to provide consumers with information regarding risk assessment of the product and falsely claiming it was made in Europe.
Singh received 300 hours of community service for the first charge, and 300 hours concurrent for the second.
The company was fined £3,500 for each of the three charges as well as £2,497 in costs, and £15 victim surcharge.
Mitigating, Joanna Hardy said Singh did not realise the filters did not meet current safety standards and withdrew them from sale as soon as he was made aware.
After sentencing, Singh said his heart went out to the family and was sorry for his actions.