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April 17, 2018 06:16 PM

Judge Rules Lawsuit Against Developmentally Disabled Facility Can Proceed

Sioux Falls

KELOLAND News has an update to an investigation concerning a lawsuit against a facility whose mission is to help people with developmental disabilities.

You may remember the case of Ben Graff. His parents say he suffered permanent damage after being physically restrained repeatedly at Children's Care Hospital and School in 2010. 

CCHS later merged with South Dakota Achieve and became LifeScape. 

Neil and Debra Graff filed the lawsuit on behalf of their son, Ben, now 24. Ben has autism and can get anxious, agitated, and aggressive. 

The Graffs say when he was 17, Ben was restrained face down 137 times while living at Children's Care Hospital and School for six months.

The lawsuit says CCHS used the prone restraint method to try to control him. You can see the dangerous technique in this YouTube demonstration, where the person is held face down on the ground. 

In many states, prone restraint is banned in state-licensed programs for people with disabilities because it can lead to serious injury and death by asphyxiation. 

Ben fought back while being held down. According to medical testimony in the case he suffered a broken nose and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Court documents indicate that CCHS stopped the practice after Ben left the facility. 

 CCHS, which is now LifeScape, has asked that the Graff's case be thrown out.  

The care facility denies any negligence with Ben's case and says it complied with all professional standards and legal requirements.  

Attorneys for CCHS argued the Graff's case amounted to medical malpractice and the two-year statute of limitation was up by the time Ben's parent's filed their lawsuit. 

Judge Larry Long disagreed. In his written opinion on the case, Long ruled the Graff's lawsuit was not a medical malpractice case. 

Judge Long wrote that, "Ben was categorized as a student and received services at CCHS paid for by the school district. The claim is not based on any medical treatment, but rather the protocols followed by non-medical professionals when a student with behavioral disorders acted out."

Judge Long denied CCHS' request to have the case thrown out. It is now scheduled to go to trial on May 7th.  

Lifescape provided the following written statement regarding the lawsuit:

“We have great respect for the legal process and do not want to say anything which might influence or compromise the integrity of the proceedings. We will answer the Plaintiffs’ claims at the trial.

We have a long history of providing compassionate care to the people we are fortunate enough to serve.”

Page 1 of Graff vs CCHS
Page 1 of Graff vs CCHS



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