Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, the couple who took in future NFL offensive lineman Michael Oher as a teenager and raised him into adulthood, have rebutted claims that the athlete was never compensated for the blockbuster film and the preceding Michael Lewis book “The Blind Side.” According to new court documents, the Tuohys allegedly paid Oher more than $138,000 from projects based on his life.
In August, Oher filed a petition alleging that the couple exploited him. He claimed that they promised to adopt him but instead established a conservatorship over his interests, profited millions from his life story, and denied him any financial participation in the Oscar-winning film.
In response to Oher’s allegations, a Tennessee judge terminated the Tuohys’ conservatorship the next month.
Still, Oher is seeking resolution on other matters, specifically concerning money they may have acquired on his behalf.
As a child, Oher was a ward of the state and became a member of Tennessee’s unsheltered population by the time he was 12 years old. School became a refuge and after becoming involved in sports, despite having to take buses and walk over an hour to school each day, he excelled. The summer before his senior year, he became associated with and started staying with the Tuohys and eventually moved in when he turned 18.
After he officially moved in with them, the couple had him sign papers. He didn’t read them or know exactly what they were for but thought they were adoption documents, he claims.
These documents allowed them as conservators to “have total control over Michael Oher’s ability to negotiate for or enter any contract, despite the fact he was over 18 years of age and had no diagnosed physical or psychological disabilities,” his 2023 petition states.
Oher and his attorneys allege that when he was a teenager, the Tuohys saw him as “a gullible young man whose athletic talent could be exploited for their own benefit,” according to CNN.
He has requested the court to make the Tuohys provide a sworn account detailing the funds received and owed to him.
Showing The Money
On Wednesday, Nov. 8, the Tuohys submitted a financial statement to the Shelby County, Tennessee, probate court. The document outlined 10 payments totaling $138,311.01 made to University of Mississippi alum — and subsequently to his son — spanning from 2007 to April of the current year.
The payments are said to be Oher’s portion of the profits derived from both the movie and the book.
“By agreement between the family members including Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, their children SJ and Collins as well as Michael Oher, the book and movie proceeds were to be split five ways,” the statement said, ESPN reports.
According to the lawyers, Oher started sending the checks back. Upon his decision to return some of the checks, the Tuohys began issuing payments directly to his son, writing checks in his name, according to the couple’s lawyer, Randy Fishman.
Also, court documents reveal that multiple checks, totaling over $8,000, sent to either Oher or his son between 2021 and 2022, did not clear, and these funds are reported to still be held in the couple’s account.
The couple maintains they have never taken money from Oher and have been forthright with all dealings pertaining to the man they once considered like a son.
“The Tuohy’s have never received any money as conservators on behalf of Michael Oher and further never had control over any funds or any dealings on behalf of Mr. Oher during the entire term of the conservatorship. In fact, the Tuohy’s spent tens of thousands of dollars of their own money to support Mr. Oher during his high school and college years,” the filing says.
The lawyers for the couple further state that they “spent tens of thousands of dollars of their own money to support Mr. Oher during his high school and college years.”
The financial document the couple submitted comprised copies of the Tuohys’ tax forms.
They show how the couple received payments exceeding $432,000 from Twentieth Century Fox, Alcon Film Fund, and Left Tackle Pictures for the movie from 2007 to 2021. This would make the amount Oher received equal to a little over a third of all the residuals they received.