Michael Oher claimed in his lawsuit that he didn’t know about his conservatorship until earlier this year, but a resurfaced passage from his 2011 memoir seems to suggest otherwise.
“It kind of felt like a formality, as I’d been a part of the family for more than a year at that point,” Oher, 37, wrote in I Beat the Odds, describing his legal arrangement with the Tuohys. “Since I was already over the age of 18 and considered an adult by the state of Tennessee, Sean and Leigh Anne would be named as my ‘legal conservators.’”
Oher went on to allege that Sean and Leigh Anne, both 63, told him that “legal conservators” 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.”
“Honestly, I didn’t care what it was called,” Oher continued. “I was just happy that no one could argue that we weren’t legally what we already knew was real: We were a family.”
Earlier this week, Us Weekly confirmed that Oher filed a lawsuit against the Tuohys, claiming that they convinced him to sign a document in 2004 making them his conservators, which gave them the legal authority to make business deals in his name. He also alleged that he received no earnings from the 2009 film The Blind Side, which was based on his story.
Oher is now asking the court to terminate the conservatorship and prohibit the Tuohys from using his name and likeness. He also wants the Tuohys to pay him his “fair share of profits,” plus “unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.”
In a press conference on Wednesday, August 16, lawyers for the Tuohys said they are “devastated” by Oher’s allegations. Attorney Randall Fishman said Leigh Anne and Sean are “glad” to terminate the conservatorship if that’s what Oher wants. “As a matter of fact, it is our intent to offer to enter into a consent order as it relates to the conservatorship, and then if they have other issues, we’ll deal with them,” Fishman explained.
Attorney Steven Farese, meanwhile, claimed that each member of the Tuohy family and Oher “received the same amount of money” for The Blind Side, which was adapted from Michael Lewis’ 2006 book of the same name. “Imagine a pie divided by five, OK?” Farese said. “We estimate each person received $100,000 — each person in the family.”
In his petition, Oher claimed the Tuohys — including their biological children Sean “SJ” Jr. and Collins — received $225,000 for the film plus 2.5 percent of the movie’s profits.
As for why the family pursued a conservatorship rather than an adoption, Fishman said “it didn’t make any difference to the Tuohys.” He also reiterated Sean’s claim that the family believed the conservatorship would satisfy NCAA requirements for Oher to play football at the University of Mississippi.
Lewis, for his part, said on Wednesday that only Hollywood saw any profits from The Blind Side. “Everybody should be mad at the Hollywood studio system,” Lewis, 62, told The Washington Post. “Michael Oher should join the writers strike. It’s outrageous how Hollywood accounting works, but the money is not in the Tuohys’ pockets.”
Lewis went on to claim that 20th Century Fox paid him $250,000 to option his book for the movie and he split that money 50/50 with the Tuohy family. After taxes and fees for his agency, Lewis said he received around $70,000.
Lewis said he and the Tuohys each earned around $350,000 in royalties after the movie’s release. The Tuohys planned to share the royalties with each family member, including Oher, but Lewis alleged that Oher stopped cashing his checks. Lewis believed the Tuohys had deposited those checks in a trust for Oher.
“What I feel really sad about is I watched the whole thing up close,” Lewis added. “They showered him with resources and love. That he’s suspicious of them is breathtaking. The state of mind one has to be in to do that — I feel sad for him.”
After the Tuohys’ press conference on Wednesday, reps for Oher said they still plan to look for justice via the legal system. “We continue to stand with Michael and the statement he released,” Oher’s spokesperson told People. “We also concur with his attorney, Don Barrett — we believe that justice will be served in a courtroom where cases are based on facts.”