David Bernstein at the Volokh Conspiracy has this post about a case down in Zavala County, Texas where Ford was hit for $28,000,000 for an rollover accident where two teens were killed and two others injured. Prof. Berstein notes that:
"The trial was interrupted last week when Ford lawyers discovered one of the jurors, Diana Palacios, was the girlfriend of plaintiffs' lawyer Jesse Gamez. In a hearing over a defense request for a mistrial, evidence was presented that Palacios, the Crystal City city manager, had also solicited two of the plaintiffs for Gamez to represent."
Prof. Berstein thinks the craziest part of the story is that the judge refused to declare a mistrial. He does not state why though. The article notes that Ms. Palacios was removed from the jury before deliberations. Under the standard for jury misconduct under rule 327 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure (which appears to be the closest applicable rule) it is grounds for a motion for new trial if the juror gave an erroneous or incorrect answer on voir dire and after hearing evidence the Court may grant a new trial if the misconduct was material and it reasonable appears that injury probably resulted to the complaining party. Since deliberations had not started and jurors are instructed not to discuss the case before deliberations, it is questionable whether Ford could show injury. It will be interesting to see (during the inevitable appeal) whether the other jurors were asked about the extent of their discusions with Ms. Palacios during the trial.
Its interesting to speculate what happened at voir dire (none of this French pronunciation in Texas: the first word rhymes with war and the second is pronounced as in Dire Straits). It is not clear at all that Ms. Palacios commited any misconduct. It is almost certain that the judge and heck probably half the people in the room knew of her relationship with Mr. Gamez. Zavala county is SMALL: about 11,500 total residents, of which one third are under 18 years old. Crystal City has about 7,500 of those residents. Giving these numbers I would guess the potential realistic jury pool is less than 4000 people. I have no doubt that Ms. Palacios was not the only person on that jury panel that knew Mr. Gamez. Further Ms. Palacios is the City Manager. Probably the only people in the room who did not know the relationship were Fords lawyers, who while they had a number of counsel had none from the immediate area (Note the link is to what appears to be a plaintiffs' announcement of the verdict). Given the judge probably knew the relationship, he would have not countenanced a lie by Ms. Palacios regarding the relationship. My guess is that she, like several other people answered that they knew Mr. Gamez when asked in voir dire and that the follow up was missed in the pressure of voir dire.
As far as ethical violations go, an attorney can't have contact with a juror during a trial, so there are some potential questions there. My guess though is that those questions were asked during the hearing on the motion for mistrial.