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Mark Sparks

E-mail MeMark Sparks

Location:
Beaumont, Texas
Phone:
409-299-5178
866-672-2585
Fax:
409-838-8888
Email:

Areas of Practice
Personal Injury
Chemical Exposure/Toxic Torts
International Litigation
Medical Malpractice/Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect
Maritime Law
Contracts

 

Mark Sparks is a veteran trial lawyer with more than 14 years of civil litigation experience on behalf of plaintiffs and foreign citizens against domestic and international chemical and transnational companies involved in major products liability disputes, general negligence, aviation accidents, corporate fraud, conversion, judgment enforcement, judgment collection, and foreign litigation in jurisdictions including Asia, Europe, North America, Central America and South America.

Sparks is licensed to practice in Texas by the Supreme Court of Texas, the Eastern District of Texas, the Southern District of Texas, the Western District of Texas, Coushatta Tribal Court in the Coushatta Indian Nation, and the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Fifth, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits, as well as appeared or argued before the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes of the World Bank, Los Angeles Superior Court , the Second District Court of Appeals in California, the Western District of Michigan, and the California Supreme Court. He is board certified in personal injury trial law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

In addition to being a Texas Rising Star by Thomson Reuters in 2006 (personal injury) and again in 2012 (international law), Sparks was named "Top 40 Under 40" in Texas by the National Trial Lawyers in 2013. Sparks is a member of the Eastern District of Texas Local Rules Advisory Committee and currently sits on the Jefferson County Bar Association and the Jefferson County Pro Bono Committee. He has published numerous articles on subjects varying from procedural to evidentiary law.

Sparks completed his juris doctoral degree cum laude at The University of Texas School of Law and is undergraduate degree summa cum laude at Baylor University. For six years he has volunteered as a High School Mock Trial Coach, the Jefferson County Bar Association and served multiple terms on the Jefferson County Young Lawyers Association board of directors. His memberships include the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, Texas Trial Lawyers Association, American Bar Association, and the Inter-American Bar Association.

Click here to see Mark talk about Pro Bono work for veterans.

Additional Contact

Education
• The University of Texas School of Law, Austin, Texas, J.D., cum laude, 1997,
• Baylor University, B.A., 1995, summa cum laude
• Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law, Texas Board of Legal Specialization, 2010

Admissions and Appointments
• Texas State Bar
• Texas State Courts, 1998
• U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas, 1998
• Coushatta Tribal Court, Coushatta Indian Nation, 2001
• U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas, 2001
• U.S. District Court, Western District Texas, 2003
• United States District Court, Central District of California, 2005
• United States District Court, Western District of Michigan, 2006
• Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, 2006
• Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, 2008
• Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, 2010
• California 2nd Appellate District, Court of Appeals (pro hac vice), 2010
• Los Angeles Superior Court (pro hac vice), 2005
• California Supreme Court (pro hac vice), 2011

Prior Experience
• Provost & Umphrey Law Firm, L.L.P., practiced personal injury negligence, product liability, medical negligence, and international litigation
• United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Law Clerk for the Honorable Chief Judge Thad Heartfield, 1998-2000
• James Sparks, Jr. (Beaumont, Texas), practiced family and criminal law, May 1998 to August 1998
• Spivey & Ainsworth, PC (Austin, Texas), law clerk and attorney, 1995-1998
• University of Texas Criminal Defense Clinic, Summer, 1997 (Austin, Texas) represented criminal defendants in Austin county courts, Benckenstein, Oxford & Johnson Law Firm (Beaumont, Texas)

Representative Litigation Matters

Mr. Sparks represents foreign-born individuals against U.S. companies, and currently practices law in negligence, product liability, toxic tort, breach of contract, and corporate fraud.  In 2011 Thomson Reuters recognized Mark as one of Texas’ “Rising Stars” in the practice of International Litigation.  For the past ten (10) years, he has litigated cases involving citizens or companies from Central America, South America, Mexico, Canada, the former Yugoslavia, and Asia.  After a decade of practicing international law, he litigated, successfully, several cases through the dismissal stages endured under forum non conveniens, a doctrine which holds that foreigners suing in the U.S. should be dismissed from U.S. courts to their home courts.  Establishing jurisdiction and venue in the U.S. is often a time-consuming and expensive path for foreign individuals.  Many plaintiff’s firms abandon foreign-related cases upon a forum non conveniens dismissal, or lack the appropriate foreign attorneys and experts to secure the necessary foreign-court dismissal back to the U. S. (a forum non conveniens dismissal need not be the end of the case).

Mr. Sparks and the Firm have those contacts and experts, and stay in the case to seek a reversal in the foreign court back to the U.S., or simply to litigate it there.  Defendants use forum non conveniens to delay and discourage the plaintiffs and their lawyers with one, two, or even three dismissals.  Working closely with the foreign attorneys and clients, he and the Firm educate them about the potential for years of jurisdictional wrangling, but that ultimately getting to the merits—somewhere, preferably with a jury or fair fact-finder—is the key.

• Central America Banana-Worker Litigation—Toxic Torts

Mr. Sparks and the firm represent thousands of Central American banana workers exposed to  a banned pesticide commonly referred to as “DBCP,” an insecticide used on banana plants in Central America despite being banned in the U.S. in 1977.  Defendants include, inter alia, Dole Food Company, Inc., The Dow Chemical Company, Del Monte Fresh Produce, N.A., Chiquita Brands N.A., Inc., Shell Oil Company, and Occidental Chemical Corporation.

a. Nicaragua—Unique to Nicaragua is Law 364 which specifically protects banana-workers exposed to DBCP and streamlines the litigation.  Mr. Sparks worked with Nicaraguan counsel to obtain two Nicaraguan judgments.

Currently representing approximately 3,709 Nicaraguans.

b. Honduras and Costa Rica—Established jurisdiction in Los Angeles court for certain clients whose claims Dole Food Company, Inc. did not want to proceed in foreign courts, a decision made after the Firm obtained the above Nicaraguan verdicts.

Currently representing approximately 1,465 Hondurans and 825 Costa Ricans in California court and representing 606 Costa Ricans in Costa Rica.

c. Panama and Guatemala—Argued forum non conveniens dismissal before the California Court of Appeals which upheld the trial judge’s dismissal of the cases to a U.S. Court in Michigan—not to the foreign courts.  Defendants’ “forum non conveniens dismissal” to a U.S. court—as opposed to the foreign courts of the plaintiffs—was unprecedented and, again, after the Firm obtained the above Nicaraguan judgments.  The case is on appeal to the California Supreme Court.

Currently representing approximately 2,023 Panamanians and 1,138 Guatemalans.

• Panama over-radiation cases—Negligence and Product Liability

Mr. Sparks and the Firm represent thirty-four (34) Panamanian victims of over-radiation delivered by a machine manufactured in Canada with software manufactured in Missouri.  Despite two Missouri forum non conveniens dismissals, Mr. Sparks and the Firm refused to withdraw from the cases.  Working with foreign counsel and international-law experts, a dismissal from the Panamanian courts back to the United States was finally obtained in 2010.  In January of 2011, the cases were presented for a third time to the Missouri courts for acceptance, in light of the Panamanian Supreme Court’s square rejection of jurisdiction in favor of Missouri.

Currently representing a total of 34 Panamanians and their families in the Panamanian over-radiation litigation.

• Nuing v. Stolt offshore, Inc.—Maritime liability for Malaysian citizen

Mr. Sparks and the Firm represented a Malaysian seamen injured off the shore of Galveston, Texas, and settled it for a significant, confidential sum.  Despite a preliminarily normal MRI and the complicated nature of his employment status through a Malaysian referral company, the Firm accepted the case, worked up a traumatic brain injury through alternative scans, and settled it for a significant, confidential sum.  Mr. Nuing was moved to the United States and, in light of his poverty and lack of insurance, the Firm advanced tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills on his recovery at a Houston-area neuro-recovery center.  After significant discrepancies in the Malaysian staffing company’s affidavits were revealed by Mark to the court, the Malaysian company withdrew its personal jurisdiction motion and, later, was nonsuited from the case, whereupon it settled.

• Former Yugoslavia—U.S. judgment enforcement in European courts

A Dallas accident involving a young man and a product manufactured by, inter alia, Red Flag Iron Works of then Yugoslavia, resulted in his paralysis and an unpaid default judgment against the non-appearing Yugoslavian defendants.  Mr. Sparks engaged foreign counsel and a judgment-enforcement expert to present evidence to the lower Yugoslavian court to enforce the judgment against the defendant’s assets in the former Yugoslavia (it had none in the U.S.).  The trial judge rejected the enforcement, but Mr. Sparks and the Firm, working with local Yugoslavian counsel, appealed and the former Yugoslavian appellate court reversed the trial judge’s dismissal and ordered the lower court to consider the expert report obtained by him and submitted for enforcement.

• EMELEC v. The Republic of Ecuador—International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (“ICSID”)

An Ecuadorian electric company in Guayaquil, Ecuador, EMELEC, was nationalized by the Republic of Ecuador.  EMELEC’s office was in Ecuador, but its incorporation was in the United States.  In light of the history of Ecuadorian nationalization and the prior owner’s criminal problems, other firms refused to take the case.  Mr. Sparks and the Firm signed EMELEC through its rightful trustee and presented the claim to the ICSID in Washington, D.C.  Despite investing hundreds of thousands of dollars and Mr. Sparks arguing before the ICSID with evidence and live witnesses, the ICSID rejected the claim on jurisdictional grounds.  EMELEC remains in the hands of those who took it, but its nationalization did not go without recognition—nor without costing The Republic of Ecuador significant time and money (the Ecuadorian attorney general attended the ICSID hearings).

• Panama helicopter crash—aviation liability

A Bell 407 helicopter crashed near Panama City, Panama, killing two and severely injuring several others.  A bird penetrated the as-cast acrylic windshield and incapacitated the captain, whereupon the chopper crashed.  Mr. Sparks and the Firm defeated the forum non conveniens motion in Fort Worth, Texas where the defendant, Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc., maintains its principal office.  He then traveled from Canada to Panama to take depositions to prepare for trial with partner Joe J. Fisher, II.  For the first time known to Provost Umphrey, The Fort Worth jury found the Bell 407 windshield defective and unreasonably dangerous, and awarded damages to the Panamanian victims.  The case is currently on appeal by both sides.


Honors and Awards
• Jefferson County Bar Association, 2013 Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year
• Jefferson County Bar Association, 2013 Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year
• Eastern District of Texas Local Rules Advisory Committee—appointed in 2008
• Texas Super Lawyers, Texas Rising Star (International Litigation), a Thomson Reuters Business: 2011
• Texas Super Lawyers, Texas Rising Star (Personal Injury), a Thomson Reuters Business: 2006 and 2010
• Judge Joe J. Fisher Chief Judge Emeritus Endowed Presidential Law Scholarship
• 1996 Achievement Award for the Highest Achievement in the Study of Constitutional Law II:  Civil Rights Survey
• Phi Beta Kappa, 1995
• Baylor University Richard D. Huff Distinguished Student in Political Science, 1995
• Baylor University Outstanding Student in Political Science, 1994 and 1995
• Pi Sigma Alpha, 1994 (National Political Science Honor Society)
• Phi Sigma Tau, 1994 (International Honor Society in Philosophy)
• Alpha Chi, 1994 (National College Honor Scholarship Society)
• Kingston’s Review
• Golden Key National Honor Society 

Publications and Speeches
• Illicit Drug Trafficking Around The World, 24 Am.J.Crim.l.203 (1996) (Reviewing OBSERVATOIRE GEOPOLITIQUE DES DROGUES, The Geopolitics of Drugs)
• The Cite Stuff, The Advocate, (2002)
• There Is Absolutely No Solid Precedent For American Legal Precedent—And It’s Unamerican To Adhere To Any Precedent At All, Jefferson County Bar Journal, Vol.1, Issue 4, 4th Qtr. (2005)
• Current Developments And Trends In Texas Privilege Law, Jefferson County Bar Association CLE seminar and Speech, December 1, 2006
• Thailand Is Better Than The United States, Jefferson County Bar Journal, Vol. 3, Issue 4, 4th Qtr.(2007)
• Procedural Law. A Texas Overview and a Comparative Analysis, 7 Inter-American Bar Association Law Review, co-authored with Henry Dahl,  (2008)
• The Marriage Myth, Jefferson County Bar Journal, Vol. 4, Issues 3 and 4, 1st Qtr. (2009)
• Guantanabomination, Jefferson County Bar Journal, Vol. 5, Issue 1, 1st Qtr. (2009
• I’m Un-American, You’re Un-American, What Were We Talking About?, Jefferson County Bar Journal, Vol. 5, Issue 3, 3rd Qtr. (2009)
• National Adoption Day Successfully Prevents Sparks From Writing About Religion, Jefferson County Bar Journal, Vol. 5, Issue 4, 4th Qtr. (2009)
• The Second Big Oil Gamble, Jefferson County Bar Journal, Vol. 6, Issue 3, 3rd Qtr. (2010)
• I Got Your Mandate Right Here, Jefferson County Bar Journal, Vol. 6, Issue 4, 4th Qtr. (2010)

Activities
• High School Mock Trial Coach, Monsignor Kelly High School, 2005-present
• Jefferson County Bar Assn.—Bar Journal Editorial Committee, 2006 to present
• Jefferson County Young Lawyer’s Association Board of Directors—Two Terms, 2004 to 2006
• Jefferson County Pro Bono Committee Member
• Jefferson County Pro Bono Program (pro bono divorce cases always active)
• Baylor University summer study in Paris (lived in Paris summer of 1994)
• Baylor University Philosophy Club

Associations
• Association of Trial Lawyers of America
• Texas Trial Lawyers Association
• American Bar Association
• Inter-American Bar Association

Personal
• Running, tennis, snow skiing, exercise, movies, reading, and traveling (especially the beach)

Areas of Practice

  • Personal Injury

Honors and Awards

  • Selected for inclusion for Texas Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters Business - 2013 - 2014

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