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Unraveling “The Blind Side” Lawsuit

Former NFL sensation Michael Oher, known for his remarkable journey from poverty to prominence, as famously depicted in the 2009 film “The Blind Side,” has initiated legal action in a Tennessee court. In a surprising turn of events, Oher has asserted that a pivotal aspect of his story, widely celebrated in the movie, was a fabricated falsehood designed by his adoptive family to profit at his expense.

 

This compelling 14-page legal petition, officially submitted to Shelby County’s probate court in Tennessee, unveils a startling claim. It alleges that Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, the benevolent individuals who welcomed Oher into their household during his high school years, never formalized his adoption. Instead, the petition contends that just shy of three months after Oher’s 18th birthday in 2004, the Tuohys employed a deceptive maneuver, persuading him to sign a document that designated them as his conservators. “The Blind Side” lawsuit conferred upon them the legal authority to engage in business dealings on his behalf.

 

Who is Michael Oher in “The Blind Side” Lawsuit? 

Michael Oher is a former American football player who gained widespread recognition due to his remarkable life story, which was later depicted in the 2009 film “The Blind Side.” He was born on May 28, 1986, in Memphis, Tennessee. Oher’s early life was marked by extreme poverty and instability. He was often homeless and moved between different foster homes and schools.

 

His life took a significant turn when he was taken in by the Tuohy family, Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, during his high school years. The Tuohys provided him with a stable and supportive home environment, and Oher went on to excel in football at Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis. He eventually earned a football scholarship to the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) and played as an offensive lineman.

 

Michael Oher’s success continued when he entered the NFL (National Football League). He was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft and played as an offensive tackle. Oher played in the NFL for several teams, including the Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans, and Carolina Panthers.

 

His life story, particularly his journey from poverty to professional football, was the basis for the book “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game” by Michael Lewis, which was published in 2006. The subsequent film adaptation, titled “The Blind Side,” starred Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy and depicted Oher’s life and his journey to success.

 

While Oher’s story was inspirational and garnered widespread attention, it also led to legal disputes and controversies regarding his adoption and conservatorship, as mentioned in previous responses.

What is Part of “The Blind Side” Lawsuit?

Furthermore, “The Blind Side” lawsuit contends that the Tuohys leveraged their conservatorship authority to negotiate a lucrative agreement that funneled millions of dollars in royalties to them and their two biological children. This windfall was derived from an Oscar-winning cinematic masterpiece that raked in over $300 million at the box office, all the while leaving Oher with nothing for a story that, as the petition emphasizes, “would not have come to fruition without his pivotal role.” Over the ensuing years, the Tuohys have continued to publicly label the now 37-year-old Oher as their adopted son, using this narrative to bolster their foundation and further Leigh Anne Tuohy’s career as an author and motivational speaker.

 

The legal filing articulates, “The falsehood surrounding Michael’s supposed adoption has allowed Co-Conservators Leigh Anne Tuohy and Sean Tuohy to amass wealth at the expense of their Ward, the undersigned Michael Oher.” Michael Oher’s disillusionment and embarrassment over this deception reportedly came to light in February 2023 when he realized that the conservatorship, which he had consented to in the belief that it would solidify his place within the Tuohy family, had in fact failed to establish any genuine familial ties.

 

In his petition, Oher implores the court to terminate the Tuohys’ conservatorship and to issue an injunction preventing them from exploiting his name and likeness. Additionally, the petition seeks a comprehensive financial reckoning of the income amassed by the Tuohys through the utilization of Oher’s identity. Furthermore, it demands that the couple remunerate him with his rightful portion of the profits, along with unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

 

The legal document argues, “Since at least August of 2004, the Conservators have permitted Michael, and by extension, the public, to believe in the falsehood of Michael’s adoption, leveraging this deception to gain financial advantages for both themselves and the foundations under their ownership or control.” The petition contends that any monies obtained through these means should, in all principles of fairness and justice, be returned and conveyed to Michael Oher, the designated ward.

 

When Oher signed the conservatorship papers as an aspiring high school senior, he recalled being informed by the Tuohys that there existed minimal disparity between adoption and conservatorship. In his 2011 best-selling memoir, “I Beat the Odds,” Oher wrote, “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.” However, the legal distinction is significant. If Oher had been legally adopted by the Tuohys, he would have obtained the status of a full-fledged family member and retained the authority to manage his financial affairs. Conversely, under the conservatorship arrangement, Oher relinquished this autonomy to the Tuohys, despite being a legal adult with no apparent physical or psychological impairments.

 

What Types of Damages are Part of “The Blind Side” Lawsuit?

The petition alleges that shortly after the release of the 2006 book “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game,” which chronicles the story, the Tuohys commenced negotiations for a film adaptation concerning their relationship with Oher. According to the legal filing, the movie compensated each member of the Tuohy family, including their two biological children, with $225,000, in addition to a share of 2.5% of the film’s “defined net proceeds.” Notably, the film achieved critical acclaim and reportedly generated over $300 million in box office revenue, with substantial additional earnings from home video sales. It even garnered an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, and Sandra Bullock earned a Best Actress accolade for her portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy. Nevertheless, as per the petition, an independent 2007 contract purportedly signed by Oher seemingly relinquished his life rights to his story to 20th Century Fox studios “without any compensation whatsoever.” Oher contends that he has no recollection of signing this contract, and even if he had, its implications were never elucidated to him.

Our personal injury lawyers plan to keep a close eye on this case as there is sure to be a tremendous amount of financial and possible legal implications for all parties involved.

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