Sean Tuohy refutes Michael Oher’s ‘Blind Side’ lawsuit, defends use of conservatorship
Sean Tuohy is refuting Michael Oher’s allegation that the Tuohy family tricked the NFL star who inspired “The Blind Side” into a conservatorship instead of adopting him — allegations that Tuohy finds “insulting.”
The sports commentator said he is “devastated” by Oher’s Monday filing in a Tennessee probate court that alleges Tuohy and his wife, Leigh Anne, “enriched themselves at the expense of their Ward.” The former Baltimore Ravens and Carolina Panthers tackle, whose life story was dramatized in the 2009 film, is alleging that the couple duped him into signing a legal document in 2004 that made them his conservators instead of his adoptive parents.
Michael Oher, the NFL star whose life story was dramatized in Oscar-winning film ‘The Blind Side,’ alleges the Tuohy family tricked him into a conservatorship.
The 2004 legal arrangement gave the couple, who were played by Tim McGraw and Sandra Bullock in the film, “total control over Michael Oher’s ability to negotiate for or enter any contract, despite the fact that he was over 18 years of age and had no diagnosed physical or psychological disabilities,” the 37-year-old’s petition said. It also gave the Tuohys legal authority to make business deals in the athlete’s name, including those involved in the movie that earned Bullock an Oscar.
But Tuohy on Monday told the Daily Memphian that he never tricked Oher into a conservatorship, nor did he earn millions in royalties from the movie, which made more than $300 million at the worldwide box office.
“It’s upsetting to think we would make money off any of our children. But we’re going to love Michael at 37 just like we loved him at 16,” Tuohy said.
Michael Oher prefers his Super Bowl role to being in ‘Blind Side’
The Memphis Grizzlies commentator said that author Michael Lewis, his childhood friend who wrote the 2006 book that was adapted into the John Lee Hancock film, gave the family “half of his share” and “everybody in the family got an equal share, including Michael [Oher].” Tuohy estimates that the shares were “about $14,000, each.”
He added that they were “never offered money” and “never asked for money” because he had already reportedly made more than $200 million from the sale of his fast-food franchises.
Tuohy told the newspaper that the 2004 legal arrangement had nothing to do with the movie. He alleged that the NCAA told him that if Oher wanted to attend Tuohy’s alma mater, Ole Miss, he would need to be considered part of the family because of the Tuohys’ “booster” status at the University of Mississippi. (Oher entered the school on a football scholarship in August 2005 at age 19, his petition said.)
“Michael was obviously living with us for a long time, and the NCAA didn’t like that,” Tuohy said. “They said the only way Michael could go to Ole Miss was if he was actually part of the family. I sat Michael down and told him, ‘If you’re planning to go to Ole Miss — or even considering Ole Miss — we think you have to be part of the family. This would do that, legally.’
He added that they contacted lawyers who told them that they couldn’t adopt a person who was over the age of 18 and “the only thing we could do was to have a conservatorship.”
“We were so concerned it was on the up-and-up that we made sure the biological mother came to court,” Tuohy said.
Michael Oher doesn’t like “The Blind Side.”
Oher was one of 12 children born to his biological mother, Denise Oher, who was among those listed in the 2004 “Petition for Appointment of Conservators,” which was meant to remain in place until Michael Oher was 25 or the legal arrangement was terminated by court order. Oher’s attorney described it as an “unconscionably unfair document” that was never terminated, modified or accompanied by annual financial accounting filings.
Oher was almost 11 when he became a ward of Tennessee‘s Department of Human Services, his petition said. But, he alleged, the Tuohys took him in without taking any legal action in juvenile court to assume his legal custody while he was a minor.
The offensive lineman alleged that he was presented with the conservatorship papers “almost immediately” after he moved in and was tricked into signing the documents, a step he believed was necessary in his adoption process after the couple took him in as a teen. Oher said that the Tuohys told him that they loved him and intended to legally adopt him, and encouraged him to call them Mom and Dad. His attorneys accused the couple of viewing him as “a gullible young man whose athletic talent could be exploited for their own benefit.”
Oher, who retired in 2016, says in his petition that he didn’t learn the nature of the 2004 document until February of this year and that it ultimately “provided him no familial relationship with the Tuohys.”
The athlete is accusing the couple as having “falsely and publicly represented themselves” as his adoptive parents to benefit their own interests. He is asking the Tennessee court to end the conservatorship and issue an injunction barring the Tuohys from using his name, image and likeness, as well as “continuing false claims” that they adopted him at any time.
He is also seeking a full accounting of the money the Tuohys earned while using his name and calling themselves his adoptive parents, asking the court to award him his fair share of profits in addition to unspecified compensatory and punitive damages and attorney’s fees.
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