A Tennessee judge has ruled to end the conservatorship agreement between former NFL offensive lineman Michael Oher and Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, all of whom were depicted in the film 'The Blind Side,' the Associated Press reports.
Shelby County Probate Court Judge Kathleen Gomes announced her decision to terminate the agreement, which was initially reached in 2004, on Friday (September 29), but specified that she has not dismissed the ongoing case between the former NFL player and the Memphis couple.
On August 14, Oher filed a 14-page petition in Shelby County, Tennessee, probate court alleging that Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, who took him into their home while he was in high school, had never actually adopted him and, instead, tricked him into signing a document to make themselves his conservators, granting them legal authority to make business deals in his name, three months after he turned 18, ESPN reported. Oher accused the Tuohys of using their power as conservators to land deals in which their family -- including their two birth children -- earned millions in royalties from the Academy Award-winning film -- which grossed more than $300 million -- while he received zero compensation for movie "that would have not existed without him."
The Tuoyhs continued to call the 37-year-old their adopted son publicly, which included promoting their foundation, as well as Leigh Anne Tuohy's work as both an author and motivational speaker in the years after the popular film's release.
"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 legal filing states via ESPN. "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."
Oher's petition asks the court to end the Tuohys' conservatorship and prohibit them from further capitalizing off his name and likeness, while also seeking the full share of profits he would have otherwise received, as well as unspecified compensatory and punitive 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 states. "All monies made in said manner should in all conscience and equity be disgorged and paid over to the said ward, Michael Oher."
Oher was a rising high school senior when he signed the conservatorship papers, which he claims the Tuohys specifically told him was no different from adoption papers at the time.
"They explained to me that it means pretty much the exact same thing as 'adoptive parents', but that the laws were just written in a way that took my age into account," Oher previously wrote in his 2011 memoir 'I Beat the Odds.'
Marty Singer, another attorney representing Sean and Leigh Ann Tuohy, issued a statement to TMZ Sports on Tuesday (August 15) claiming Oher came to the family before filing a 14-page petition in Shelby County, Tennessee, probate court and threatened to "plant a negative story about them in the press" if they didn't pay him.
“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," Singer wrote.
Singer also claimed Oher had previously been dropped as a client by other attorneys, however, “has finally found a willing enabler and filed this ludicrous lawsuit as a cynical attempt to drum up attention in the middle of his latest book tour.”
Sean Tuohy told the Daily Memphian that the family was "devastated" by the lawsuit and called the allegations "insulting." Tuohy, a former Ole Miss basketball player and booster, said the family drew up the conservatorship to ensure Oher could play football at Ole Miss as there would be a potential NCAA issue if he wasn't an actual member of the family.
"I sat Michael down and told him, ‘If you’re planning to go to Ole Miss — or even considering Ole Miss — we think you have to be part of the family. This would do that legally,'” Tuohy said via the Daily Memphian. “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.”
Tuohy also denied Oher's claim that the family made a significant profit from the Academy Award-winning film, which the former NFL lineman said was kept from him.
“We didn’t make any money off the movie,” Touhy said via the Daily Memphian. “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.”
Sean Tuohy Jr., the couple's son, also denied Oher's claims during an appearance on Barstool Sports' Barstool Radio program Monday.
“I’m gonna preface this by saying that I love Mike at 16, I love Mike at 37, and I [will] love him at 67,” he said of Oher. “There’s not gonna be any dossier or thing that happens that is going to make me say, ‘Screw that guy.’ That’s not the case."
The younger Tuohy argued against Oher's claim that he found out about the conservatorship in February 2023.
“I went through my family group texts today to see what had been said. There were things in like 2020 or 2021 that said, ‘If you guys give me this much, then I won’t go public with things’" Tuohy Jr. said.
“I think everybody learned about conservatorships in the past year because of Britney Spears, so maybe that’s the case,” he added.
Oher, a four-star high school prospect, committed to Ole Miss in 2005, which launched an NCAA investigation given the Tuohys' ties to the university as both alumni and donors. The Memphis native was selected by the Baltimore Ravens at No. 23 overall in the 2009 NFL Draft and spent his first five seasons with the franchise, which included winning Super Bowl XLVII.
Oher spent the 2014 season with the Tennessee Titans and the 2015 and 2016 seasons with the Carolina Panthers prior to his retirement.