Former NFL star Michael Oher, the subject of the book and movie "The Blind Side," alleges that the couple who took him in as a teenager misled him into believing they were adopting him — and that they instead placed him in a conservatorship, according to a court filing Monday.
"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," said the petition to terminate the conservatorship in Shelby County Court in Tennessee.
The story of Oher and the Tuohy family became the subject of an Oscar-winning film, “The Blind Side,” starring Sandra Bullock in the role of Leigh Anne Tuohy. The film, based on the Michael Lewis book of the same name, chronicled Oher’s life as a homeless child through his college football career and eventual NFL stardom.
The Tuohys negotiated a deal with 20th Century Fox that left Oher without any payment for the rights to his name, likeness and life story, while the Tuohy family received a contract price of $225,000 and 2.5% of the film’s net proceeds, the petition states.
The film has grossed over $300 million, the petition says. A $200,000 donation was also made to Leigh Anne Tuohy's charitable foundation.
The petition said Oher made no money off the film, which was released after he completed his college career and would not have affected his NCAA eligibility.
According to the petition, Oher does not recall signing the agreement for the rights to his life story. The document has a signature that appears to be his, but "nobody ever presented this document to him with any explanation," the filing says.
The petition accuses the Tuohys of a breach of their fiduciary duty as conservators “so gross and appalling that they should be sanctioned by this court."
Oher was a ward of the state of Tennessee by the age of 11 and homeless as a child, according to the filing. A friend's father helped Oher enroll in 2002 in Briarcrest Christian School, where he played basketball and football.
The families of classmates often let Oher, who fell through the cracks of a "broken social system," stay in their homes, the petition said.
"Where other parents of Michael's classmates saw Michael simply 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 said.
Oher alleges that the summer before his senior year, after he became a legal adult in July 2004, the Tuohys offered him a place to live with their family in their home. The couple said they would legally adopt him, and Oher believed them, the petition said.
Oher learned only in February that documents the Tuohys asked him to sign under the belief that it was part of the "adoption process" were actually conservatorship papers that would strip away his legal rights, the petition said.
The Tuohys told him that because he was no longer a minor, the adoption paperwork was titled a conservatorship, the petition alleged.
"At no point did the Tuohys inform Michael that they would have ultimate control of all his contracts, and as a result Michael did not understand that if the Conservatorship was granted, he was signing away his right to contract for himself," the petition said.
The conservatorship was granted until Oher reached the age of 25 or until the court terminated the order, but the arrangement was never terminated, Oher's petition said.
In addition to termination, Oher's petition asks the court to issue an injunction barring the Tuohys from using his name and likeness.
The couple said in a statement on Tuesday that they have always been upfront with Oher about the conservatorship and have split any profit from “The Blind Side” with him equally.
“Even recently, when Mr. Oher started to threaten them about what he would do unless they paid him an eight-figure windfall, and, as part of that shakedown effort refused to cash the small profit checks from the Tuohys, they still deposited Mr. Oher’s equal share into a trust account they set up for his son,” the statement from attorney Marty Singer said.
The couple also alleged that Oher has attempted to “run this play” before but struggled to find a lawyer who would represent him.
“The Tuohys will always care deeply for Mr. Oher. They are heartbroken over these events,” the statement said. “They desperately hope that he comes to regret his recent decisions, makes different choices in the future and that they someday can be reconciled with him.”
In a statement Monday, Oher said that he was “disheartened by the revelation shared in the lawsuit today."
"This is a difficult situation for my family and me," he said."For now, I will let the lawsuit speak for itself and will offer no further comment.”
An attorney for the Tuohys declined to comment. The Tuohys' former representatives at Creative Artists Agency said they have not worked with the family since 2007.
Sean Tuohy Jr., known as SJ, told Barstool Sports that he believes the issues between Oher and the Tuohy family built over time. He alleged that Oher asked for money from the family around 2021.
He added that he will never say anything negative about Oher.
“I get it, why he’s mad, I understand," SJ Tuohy said. "It stinks that it will play out on the public stage. ... That part sucks, but oh well.”
SJ Tuohy also said that he was not aware of the details of the movie deal but knew that his father gave him a check a few years after the movie came out. He added that he did not know why his parents chose a conservatorship over adoption but assumed it was because of Oher's age.
"There's no, like, money being held anywhere. ... There's no power of attorney still being held," he said. "I was accusatory of my parents to some extent, like I want to make sure I'm not defending the wrong side of this."