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‘Blind Side’ inspiration Michael Oher says Tuohy family lied about adopting him

Ex-NFL star says Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy instead got him to sign papers to make them conservators

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Tuesday 15 August 2023 15:31 BST
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Former NFL star Michael Oher has claimed in a lawsuit that the adoption story behind The Blind Side movie was a lie and that the Tuohy family made millions from his name.

A petition filed in probate court in Shelby County, Tennessee, alleges that Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, a white couple who brought 18-year-old Oher into their home as a high school student, never actually adopted him.

Instead, lawyers for the athlete state that three months after Oher turned 18 in 2004 they got him to sign a document which made them his conservators and which allowed them to make business deals in his name.

Court papers state that the couple used their position as conservators to agree to a deal that saw them and their two biological children paid for the Oscar-winning movie, which starred Sandra Bullock and made more than $300m.

Oher claims in the petition that he made nothing for the inspirational story “that would not have existed without him” and that the family have continued to call him their adopted son to promote their foundation and Ms Tuohy’s career as an author and motivational speaker, reported ESPN.

“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,” court documents state.

“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.”

Actress Sandra Bullock attends the premiere of "The Blind Side" at the Ziegfeld Theatre on November 17, 2009 in New York City. (Getty Images)

Oher has asked the court to end the conservatorship and to ban them from using his name and likeness. He also wants a full accounting of the money the family made using his name and to be paid a fair share of the profits. He is also seeking an unspecified amount of punitive and compensatory damages.

“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 added.

“All monies made in said manner should in all conscience and equity be disgorged and paid over to the said ward, Michael Oher.”

The lawsuit states that the Tuohys and their two birth children were each paid $225,000, plus 2.5% per cent of the film’s “defined net proceeds” for the movie.

Oher’s lawyers say that they found out he was not legally adopted in February and that he has been left devastated by the discovery.

“Mike didn’t grow up with a stable family life,” said attorney J Gerard Stranch IV.

“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.”

But Sean Tuohy later told the Daily Memphian that Oher’s claims have “devastated” the family and defended not adopting him.

“We contacted lawyers who had told us that we couldn’t adopt over the age of 18; 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,” he said.

And he added: “We didn’t make any money off the movie. Well, Michael Lewis, the [author of the book on which the movie was based] gave us half of his share. Everybody in the family got an equal share, including Michael. It was about $14,000, each.”

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