‘The Blind Side’ subject says adoption by Tuohy family was a lie

(NBC) – Former NFL star Michael Oher, 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 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,” the petition to terminate the conservatorship in Shelby County Court in Tennessee said.

The story of Oher and the Tuohy family became the subject of an Oscar-winning film, “The Blind Side,” starring actor 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 in addition to 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.

Oher made no money off the film, the petition said, which was released after he completed his college career and would not have impacted 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.”

His petition accuses the Tuohys of a breach of their fiduciary duty as conservators “so gross and appalling that they should by sanctioned by this court.”

Oher was a ward of the state of Tennessee by the age of 11 and was homeless as a child, according to the filing. A friend’s father helped Oher enroll in Briarcrest Christian School in 2002, where Oher played both basketball and football.

The families of classmates often let Oher, who fell through the cracks of a “broken social system,” stay in their homes during his time, 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 only learned in February that documents he was asked to sign by the Tuohys, 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 allegedly told him that because he was no longer a minor, the adoption paperwork was titled a conservatorship, the petition said.

“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 requests the court issue an injunction barring the Tuohys from using his name and likeness.

A phone call to Sean Tuohy was not immediately returned to NBC News on Monday. The attorney who filed the initial 2004 conservatorship case on behalf of the Tuohys said he had not yet spoken to the couple about Oher’s new filing.

Tuohys former representatives at the Creative Artists Agency said they have not worked with the family since 2007.

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Taylar Ansures is a producer and reporter for NBC5 News. Taylar is from Redding, California and went to California State University, Chico. After graduating, she joined KRCR News Channel 7 in Redding as a morning producer. She moved to Southern Oregon in 2022 to be closer to family and became KTVL News 10’s digital producer. Taylar is currently finishing her Master's Degree in Professional Creative Writing through the University of Denver. In her free time, Taylar frequents independent bookstores and explores hiking trails across Southern Oregon and Northern California.
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