April 2018 Legal Education Article
By Marcia Jewett

My last Legal Education Article for 2017-2018. This subject was something I had to encounter the last days of my mom’s life. Hard to accept, but everyone needs to realize it does happen often.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services found there was neglect towards my mom by an employee. This employee will be Agency Substantiated for neglect, and will be added to the Central Registry, so that when a prospective employer checks, this allegation will be found. The employee will also be required to self-report to their employer, and to the nursing board. Our family chose not to press any legal charges. The nursing home built a beautiful memorial for my mom and another resident in their honor.

Unfortunately, millions of elderly individuals are abused every year. Many families have to make the difficult decision to place their loved ones in a nursing home so that they can receive the proper care and supervision that they need at this stage in their lives. However, elderly individuals in nursing homes are vulnerable to sustaining abuse. If a loved one is being abused, it can often be difficult to know what to do. A nursing home abuse lawyer may be able to help.

Adult Protective Services (APS) Nebraska Revised Statutes: Search Laws: 28-348 to 28-387.

The APS Act established a program designed to meet the needs of vulnerable adults and to assure the availability of the program to all eligible persons. It places authority and responsibility for investigations and interventions in situations of abuse/neglect of vulnerable adults with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and local law enforcement agencies.

Adult Protective Services investigates reports of vulnerable adult abuse/neglect/exploitation, including self-neglect and intervenes when maltreatment is confirmed.

Adult Protective Services are provided with as little disruption to the client's life as possible. Whenever possible, clients are helped to live in the environment of their choice.

DHHS acknowledges that as long as adults can recognize the consequences of decisions they have made about their lives, the right to make those decisions must be respected, provided they are capable of making that choice.

Adult Protective Services (APS) becomes involved when someone from the community suspects abuse/neglect/exploitation, including self-neglect and makes a report. APS reviews the report to make a determination if an investigation is needed under the APS law. APS may conduct an investigation to determine if the alleged victim is a vulnerable adult and if there has been abuse/neglect/exploitation, including self-neglect. APS may also help determine what services are needed.

Quantifying Damages: Insurance companies may try to offer a low settlement value for a claim. They may try to rationalize that the elderly individual may not have the same types of damages that younger victims have, such as no loss of income or earning capacity. Due to cognitive decline, the insurance company may argue that the elderly individual was not aware of any harm. However, a nursing home abuse lawyer will seek all applicable damages for the elderly individual and his or her family. He or she will ensure that the elderly individual’s pain and suffering is fully factored into a settlement value. Additionally, he or she may pursue punitive damages for outrageous conduct.

Reporting Abuse: This action may sometimes spur a state actor to conduct its own independent investigation into the claim. This step may be able to help prevent future abuse and the abuse of others in the nursing home.

    • An APS worker investigating the abuse is not allowed to tell a victim or perpetrator who made the report.
    • Reporter’s name will be shared with the appropriate law enforcement agency and may be shared with the county attorney or DHHS, Licensure Unit, if appropriate.

State of Nebraska - Division of Children & Family Services
P.O. Box 95026
Lincoln, NE 68509-5044
Phone: (402) 471-9272

      • Adult & Child Abuse & Neglect Hotline 1-800-652-1999
      • Law Enforcement Outside of Nebraska National Elder Abuse Hotline 1-800-677-1116
      • Other important numbers Nebraska Long-Term Care Ombudsman 1-800-942-7830
      • Nebraska Spanish Helpline Línea de Crisis en Nebraska 1-877-215-0167
      • National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE(7233)

There’s a Whole Lotta Hashing Going On

February 2018 Legal Pad Legal Education Article
By Jackie Sundberg

Ever wondered about Blockchain Technology?  Our speaker this month is Sara English, Assistant General Counsel at Mutual of Omaha, and her topic is “The Blockchain: What It Is and Why It Matters to Legal Professionals.”  I had not even heard of this new technology; now I learn how Blockchain Technology is on the brink of creating a new type of internet, one that will securely store and authenticate information about every asset, device, and individual.  I am all for a secure internet, so it may be helpful to know a little more about Blockchain before it becomes a way of life for us all.

What is it?  Blockchain Technology is hyped to be an unalterable database for transaction validation.  It will play a critical role in every industry imaginable, including financial, health care, real property, elections, and law.  As a database running underneath cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, it will guarantee, automate, and reduce overall transaction costs by cutting out the middleman (think PayPal) in guaranteeing financial transactions.  It will be a decentralized, real‑time digital ledger useful in tracking everything from food supplies to managing identities, on a global basis.

By use of encryption techniques, Blockchain will control the creation of monetary units to verify the transfer of funds and settlement of trades.  In financial services, it will create faster, cheaper settlements while improving transparency.  When used for voting, Blockchain would enable secure and immediately verifiable election results.  As for healthcare settings, a patient’s encrypted health information could be shared among providers without any risk of a privacy breach.

Blockchain is a “proof of work” mechanism that works through a process of “blocks” that are created and encrypted at every step in the process by the network participants.  Since each block is validated along the way, if an attempt is made to alter an existing block, the chain of successively encrypted blocks is broken, thereby creating a new block.  The creation of this new block serves to alert the participants, and the corrupt block is rejected.  An unbroken block sequence proves authenticity in the chain.

How does it work?  In a nutshell, the process goes like this:  A block transaction is input and a unique hash value is assigned to the block.  These hash values are then combined into a system known as a Merkle Tree.  These then go into the block’s header, along with the hash of the previous block’s header and a timestamp.  The header then becomes part of a cryptographic puzzle that is solved by manipulating a number called the nonce.  When a solution is found to all this hashing, a new block is added to the Blockchain.

Here is some new tech jargon to become familiar with:

~ a “hash” is an algorithm that turns a large amount of data into a fixed length hash.

~ a “Merkle Tree” leads to a single hash value that will validate and authenticate every piece of information in a block, verifying it has not been tampered with in any way.

~ a “nonce” is a block containing a 32-bit field; the hash of a block contains a long run of leading zeros.



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