Many people are familiar with the story of NFL football player Michael Oher. His life was depicted in the 2009 blockbuster movie The Blind Side.
But what audiences saw may not be as true to Oher’s life as initially thought.
Why did Oher file a lawsuit against the family who supposedly took him in? And why is he now saying that they never actually adopted him?
The Story of Michael Oher’s Story
Michael Oher’s story was originally told by author Michael Lewis. The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game detailed Oher’s difficult upbringing and the path that eventually led him to being drafted by the Baltimore Ravens.
The rights to the book and Michael Oher’s story were eventually sold to a major movie studio and turned into a 2009 hit movie called The Blind Side. The movie starred Sandra Bullock, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Motion Picture of the Year, and is said to have made over $300 million at the box office and tens of millions of dollars more in home video sales.
Oher’s story made millions, but now he is saying that his right to his story was taken out from under him and that the story isn’t the way it was depicted in the 2009 blockbuster.
Oher Was Never Adopted by the Tuohys
The movie centered around Oher’s relationship with Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy and their two children. In the movie, the Tuohys take in Oher, who had been moved around the foster care system and didn’t have a permanent home as a teenager. The Tuohys welcome Oher into the family and adopt him to be a part of their family.
But Oher says this part of the story isn’t true.
In a new legal filing, Oher says that the Tuohys never adopted him. Instead, he says they tricked him into signing a legal conservatorship, which didn’t make him an official part of their family and gave the Tuohys the authority to make business deals in his name, according to reporting by ESPN.
Oher says the Tuohys still have the conservatorship in place and have used it to make millions.
The Real Story
Legal documentation shows that the Tuohys never legally adopted Oher.
Legal filings state that when Oher was eighteen, he thought he was signing documents to be adopted by the Tuohys, but he actually signed a conservatorship. He says the Tuohys led him to believe that he was becoming an official part of their family and that it was a lie.
“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,” states his legal filing.
The Difference Between Adoption and Conservatorship
Oher turned eighteen three months prior to when he signed the paperwork he says he thought were adoption papers. Even though he was legally an adult, laws in Tennessee say that adoption can take place at any age. Legal adoption after the age of eighteen can still provide benefits to the adopted child, such as having a claim in legal inheritance.
Legal adoption of a person over the age of 18 does not grant the adoptive parents control of the child’s finances — but a conservatorship does.
A conservatorship is typically put in place when an adult can’t care for themselves. The conservatorship grants a guardian legal responsibility for someone who has been deemed incapable of caring for themselves or their property on their own.
The legalities of conservatorships gained public attention recently as Britney Spears fought to end a conservatorship placed on her in 2008.
Conservatorships are typically put in place when an individual is deemed to have physical or psychological disabilities that prevent them from making decisions on their own. Oher did not appear to have any conditions to warrant the conservatorship, and he is now trying to bring it to a close.
The Future for Michael Oher
Oher’s recent legal filing aims to end the conservatorship and prevent the Tuohys from using his name in the future. He is also asking for a full accounting of money the Thohys have earned from using his name. His petition to the court requests his fair share of any profits in addition to compensatory and punitive damages.
In conservatorships, guardians are required to file an accounting of the conservatee’s finances each year under Tennessee law, yet it appears that the Tuohys have never filed a finance report, according to the New York Times.
The Tuohys, who have been estranged from Oher for close to a decade, say they used the conservatorship because it was the best way to satisfy the NCAA’s concerns that they were breaking rules by recruiting Oher to play at their alma mater, according to their attorney Randall Fishman.
They also say that Oher knew he hadn’t been legally adopted prior to his 2023 court filing. Oher’s book I Beat The Odds: From Homeless, To The Blind Side published in 2011 mentions the Tuohys being conservators for him three times, according to reporting by AP News.
It is likely the conservatorship will end as Oher has no physical or psychological disabilities that would prevent him from caring for himself, but it will remain to be seen if Oher receives any other compensation for his life story.
Always Have a Trusted Lawyer By Your Side
Oher’s case is an example of how nuances in legal matters can have major implications. If you are engaged in any type of legal matter, whether in criminal, civil, or family law, make sure you have an attorney by your side who you can trust. Work with a partner who can fully explain the entire legal implications of any contract or legal case.
If you have a case to review, talk to TJ Grimaldi today. Request your consultation or call 813-226-1023.
TJ Grimaldi joined McIntyre in 2011. McIntyre recruited TJ to create the divisions of personal injury and family law, as well as to expand the existing criminal defense practice at the firm. During TJ’s tenure at McIntyre, he has helped oversee and grow these practice areas. He continues to practice in these divisions while also expanding his own practice areas to include estate planning and immigration law. TJ is admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of Florida and the United States District Court for the Middle and Southern Districts of Florida.