A mistrial has been declared in the civil trial involving Fresno architect John “Chuck” Heflebower, who was seeking damages after being hit in the face with an aluminum baseball bat tossed by one of his son’s friends during a Fourth of July backyard barbecue three years ago.
Judge Donald Black ended the trial Monday after he learned that a few jurors were talking to others about the evidence. Before the trial had started, Black had admonished jurors not to talk about the case with anyone until all the evidence was presented and deliberations began.
The judge ordered lawyers to return to court June 15 to schedule a new trial date.
Heflebower, 56, suffered a Le Fort III fracture, one of the worst kind of skull fractures, said Fresno attorney Jason Helsel, who is representing Heflebower in a personal injury/negligence claim against 19-year-old Ryan Beard.
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Helsel contended Beard, who was 16 at the time, was negligent when he threw the bat while pretending to be Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The accident happened July 4, 2013, at the home of Debby and Guy Desrosiers, who live near Fort Washington Golf and County Club. Heflebower was in charge of the barbecue, and Beard had been playing home run derby with Heflebower’s two sons.
The bat crushed Heflebower’s nose, cheekbones and eye socket bones, Helsel told the jury. He has had to endure several surgeries in which doctors used titanium plates to re-create his facial features. Heflebower also has recurring headaches, double vision and his jaw constantly hurts because his teeth don’t line up, Helsel said.
Heflebower was seeking damages for emotional distress, disfigurement, physical pain, loss of enjoyment of life, grief and humiliation from the Beard family’s homeowners insurance.