Michael Oher of “The Blind Side” claims he was placed in a conservatorship rather than being adopted.
Michael Oher, the star of the critically acclaimed 2009 film The Blind Side, claims that a key element of his life story—that he was adopted by an affluent family—is untrue. He said that rather than adopting him, the Tuohy family set up a conservatorship through which they made money off of his name, likeness, and likeness.
Oher, 37, submitted a petition Monday asking for the conservatorship to be terminated in Shelby County, Tennessee’s probate court.
A conservatorship is a formal legal designation that empowers one person to manage the money and personal matters of another.
Oher also wants the Tuohys held accountable for failing to account for his assets as required by the conservatorship, to pay him any money he has been owed over the years with interest, to pay his legal fees and punitive damages, and to be punished for breaking the conservatorship’s rules.
In the NFL, Oher played offensive tackle for eight years. But in 2003, he started playing football at Briarcrest Christian School outside Memphis.
He participated in the Army All-American Bowl and the Tennessee All-State Football and Basketball Games during his final year there. The petition stated that he received numerous offers for football scholarships.
He was a state ward at the time and frequently stayed the night at the houses of his classmates.
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Oher started intermittently staying with Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy and their two kids, Collins and Sean Jr., the summer following his junior year. In July of that summer, according to the petition, the Tuohys invited Oher to reside with them.
Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy allegedly told Oher they loved him and urged him to refer to them as “mum” and “dad.” He recalled that they also promised to adopt him.
“Whereas other parents of Michael’s classmates simply saw Michael as a nice kid in need, Conservators Sean Tuohy and Leigh Anne Tuohy saw something else: a gullible young man whose athletic talent could be exploited for their own benefit,” the petition stated.
Oher claimed that the Tuohys gave him the conservatorship soon after he moved in since he was older than 18. According to the petition, he was informed that the paperwork constituted “for all intents and purposes, an adoption.”
The agreement said that Oher could not enter into or negotiate contracts or make medical choices on his own and that the Tuohys would have “the full co-legal custody, guardianship and conservatorship of the said Michael Jerome Williams, Jr.”
Oher claimed that he learned in February of this year that he was not legally related to the Tuohy family.
Oher claims that he was never paid for the popularity of The Blind Side.
The Blind Side: Evolution of the Game, a book by journalist and novelist Michael Lewis about Oher’s life, was released in 2006. Later that year, according to the petition, the Tuohys started discussions with 20th Century Fox about making a movie based on the book.
At least $300 million was made at the global box office by The Blind Side. The petition claimed that while Oher received nothing, the Tuohys made millions of dollars.
Leigh Anne Tuohy and Making It Happen, the non-profit run by the Tuohy family, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Moreover, according to the petition, Oher claimed that his name was on a 2007 agreement that would have granted 20th Century Fox “without any payment whatsoever, the perpetual, unconditional and exclusive right throughout the world to use and portray Michael Oher’s name, likeness, voice, appearance, personality, personal experiences, incidents, situations and events” connected to the book and movie about the 2008 NFL draught.
He claimed that although he doesn’t know whether the document was faked or genuine, he never signed it.
In the petition, Oher demanded that the Tuohys forfeit all proceeds from the movie, interest included, and pay punitive damages if they were found to have falsified the document.
By failing to submit annual accounting of Oher’s holdings, the Tuohys, according to Oher, violated the terms of the contract and should be punished.
Oher requested that the Tuohys serve as his legal guardians for at least two years, or until the conservatorship was terminated by a court prior to the age of 25, according to the conservatorship application from 2004. The petition submitted on Oher’s behalf on Monday, however, stated that “this conservatorship is unnecessary as Michael Oher is capable of handling his own affairs.”
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