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'The Blind Side' subject alleges adoptive family made millions off of his life story as actual conservators

By NICK GARCIA Published Aug 15, 2023 11:19 am

A former football star—who grew up poor and was adopted by a wealthy white family, eventually leading to his life story's depiction in the 2009 movie The Blind Side—petitioned a Tennessee court to formally end his legal relationship with them. He claimed they never legally adopted him and instead "tricked" him into signing a document that made them his conservators, allowing them to make business decisions on his behalf.

The New York Times reported that Michael Oher, 37, is seeking the termination of the conservatorship that began when he was 18, the money he says he should've earned from the movie, and an injunction preventing Leigh Anne Tuohy and Sean Tuohy from using his name and likeness.

In his petition, Oher said it was only in February this year when he found out that he had not been legally adopted. He, who lived with the Tuohys when he was 16, said he was urged to sign a conservatorship, thinking it was required in the adoption process.

Tennessee defines conservatorship as an arrangement in which a court removes at least some “decision-making powers and duties” from “a person with a disability who lacks capacity to make decisions in one or more important areas." A conservator or co-conservators, then, gains those decision-making powers.

The 2004 order that granted Oher’s conservatorship to the Tuohys, however, states that Oher appeared to have “no known physical or psychological disabilities.”

Oher also claimed that he unknowingly signed away the rights to his life story to 20th Century Fox in 2007.

The lawsuit stated that for The Blind Side—starring Sandra Bullock as Leigh, Tim McGraw as Sean, and Quinton Aaron as Oher—the Tuohys signed a deal of $225,000 (almost P13 million) plus 2.5% of future “defined net proceeds” for themselves and their biological children.

Oher said he got nothing despite the movie earning over $300 million (over P17 billion) worldwide. Over the past years, he also had apparent misgivings over the movie's depiction of him as less intelligent than he was, according to the Times.

The Tuohys didn't respond to the Times for comment, though Sean told The Daily Memphian he had been “devastated” to hear about the lawsuit. He said it was “upsetting to think we would make money off any of our children.”

He said everybody in his family, including Oher, got an equal share from the movie, at around $14,000 (P795,000). He's also reportedly willing to end the conservatorship.

Oher, who retired from football in 2017, played college football from 2005 to 2009 at Mississippi, the Times reported. He was selected with the No. 23 overall pick in the 2009 National Football League draft by the Baltimore Ravens and played eight N.F.L. seasons as an offensive tackle for the Ravens, the Tennessee Titans, and the Carolina Panthers. He won the Super Bowl with the Ravens in 2013.