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‘Blind Side’ Subject Michael Oher Says Tuohys Never Adopted Him, Used His Story for Profit

‘Blind Side’ Subject Michael Oher Says Tuohys Never Adopted Him, Used His Story for Profit

Retired NFL star Michael Oher has filed a petition in Tennessee court alleging that the Tuohy family, who took him in as a high school student and were the subject of the Oscar-winning film The Blind Side, fabricated parts of his story to benefit themselves.

In the 14-page petition, filed in Shelby County, Tennessee, probate court on Monday, Oher alleges that Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy never adopted him. Instead, he claims, the couple tricked him into signing a document making the Tuohys his conservators just three months after he turned 18 in 2004. The conservatorship then gave the Tuohys legal authority to make business deals in his name.

“The lie of Michael’s adoption is one upon which Co-Conservators Leigh Anne Tuohy and Sean Tuohy have enriched themselves at the expense of their Ward, the undersigned Michael Oher,” the legal filing says. “Michael Oher discovered this lie to his chagrin and embarrassment in February of 2023, when he learned that the Conservatorship to which he consented on the basis that doing so would make him a member of the Tuohy family, in fact provided him no familial relationship with the Tuohys.”

Oher alleges that the Tuohys used their power as conservators to strike a deal with 20th Century Fox that paid them and their two birth children millions of dollars in royalties from The Blind Side. The movie, which was based on Oher’s story, was a critical and commercial success, grossing more than $300 million at the box office.

However, Oher alleges he never received any money from the movie, even though he suspected that others were profiting. He says he eventually hired a lawyer who helped him uncover the details surrounding the movie deal and his legal connection to the Tuohys.

“Mike didn’t grow up with a stable family life,” said J. Gerard Stranch IV, Oher’s lawyer. “When the Tuohy family told Mike they loved him and wanted to adopt him, it filled a void that had been with him his entire life. Discovering that he wasn’t actually adopted devastated Mike and wounded him deeply.”

Oher is now seeking a legal end the Tuohys’ conservatorship, as well as an injunction barring the family from using Oher’s name and likeness. The petition is also seeking a full account of the money the Tuohys earned using his name, and for the couple to pay him his fair share of profits.

“Since at least August of 2004, Conservators have allowed Michael, specifically, and the public, generally, to believe that Conservators adopted Michael and have used that untruth to gain financial advantages for themselves and the foundations which they own or which they exercise control,” the petition reads. “All monies made in said manner should in all conscience and equity be disgorged and paid over to the said ward, Michael Oher.”

Oher claims that back in 2004, he signed the conservatorship papers believing that it was the same as adoption. However, there are important legal distinctions between the two: if Oher had been adopted, he would have been a legal member of the Tuohy family and would have retained power to handle his own financial affairs. Under the conservatorship, Oher surrendered that authority to the Tuohys, even though he was a legal adult.

The petition alleges that the Tuohys began negotiating a movie deal about their relationship with Oher shortly after the 2006 release of Oher’s memoir, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game. The movie paid the Tuohys and their two birth children each $225,000, plus 2.5 percent of the film’s “defined net proceeds.”

Yet while the deal allowed the Tuohys to profit from the film, the petition alleges that a separate 2007 contract signed by Oher appears to “give away” to 20th Century Fox Studios the life rights to his story “without any payment whatsoever.” Oher claims in the petition that he has no recollection of signing that contract, and even if he did, no one explained its implications to him.

The Tuohys have not yet responded to Oher’s petition.

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