Use Of Prone Restraints On Developmentally Disabled Boy At Center Of Lawsuit


A former Vikings football player known for his role in a lawsuit against the NFL over players’ concussions is now part of another lawsuit over the care of his developmentally disabled son. 

KELOLAND Investigates first broke the story about the use of prone restraints on Ben Graff in September.  

Neil and Debbie Graff are suing Children’s Care Hospital and School in Sioux Falls, now LifeScape, for what they say was abusive treatment of their son which left him with permanent emotional damage.  

The Graffs say Ben was put into a prone restraint position 137 times over a six-month period while living at Children’s Care in 2010. The Graffs say Ben was restrained up to five times a day, sometimes for up to 3 hours at a time. 

Attorneys for the Graffs argue that Children’s Care didn’t follow it’s own policies for the use of prone restraints.

Attorneys for CCHS admit that polices were not always followed and that there were errors in the documentation. But they say that Ben only suffered scrapes and bruises from the prone restrain methods due to his resistance.

As KELOLAND Investigates reported last fall, the state Health Department found that CCHS wasn’t using the least restrictive form of intervention and had insufficient documentation and oversight. CCHS stopped using the prone restraint method after Ben left the facility. 

The Graffs claim Ben broke his nose while being restrained, but CCHS says that’s not the case and his nose must have been broken by his own destructive behaviors. 

CCHS described Ben’s behaviors as dangerous to himself and others and that no one could control him, causing him to be suspended from Lincoln High school in 2009. His parents say they took Ben out of Lincoln to get him proper care. 

The defense says Children’s Care Hospital and School was having success with Ben initially after he entered the residential program, but that he got worse after his parents wanted to keep him home at night and have him become a day student. 

CCHS said in opening arguments in the case that a team made up of school district members, CCHS and the Graffs met on a regular basis and his parents knew what kind of restraints were being used on their son and why.  

CCHS says it did not perform restraints “to” Ben, but did it “for” Ben for his own protection. The group blames its accelerated use of prone restraints on the fact his parents ignored the advice of the professionals and wanted to change his schedule.

The Graffs wished to keep Ben home at night, but CCHS says that disrupted the progress they had made with him as a residential student. 

The defense told the jury it would present evidence that Debbie Graff took a picture of CCHS and burned it in front of Ben, telling him it was a bad place.  

CCHS says Ben’s behavior got so bad they discharged him due to safety concerns.

A LifeScape official, who oversaw all care to the children at Children’s Care in 2010 was the first witness to be called to the stand.  

Some 25,000 documents have been entered as evidence in the case. The trial is expected to take at least three weeks. KELOLAND’s Angela Kennecke will be bringing you coverage from the courtroom. 

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