Judge terminates Tuohy family conservatorship over former NFL player Michael Oher

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Judge terminates Tuohy family conservatorship over former NFL player Michael Oher

Michael Oher, Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle, relaxes on the beach during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills in Baltimore, captured in October 2010. (Photo Credit: Nick Wass/AP)

Authors: Brynn Gingras and Emma Tucker, CNN Published: September 30, 2023, at 06:38 AM EST Last Updated: September 30, 2023, at 06:38 AM EST

A Tennessee judge has signed an order on Friday terminating Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy’s conservatorship over Michael Oher, following accusations by the former NFL player that the couple had publicly portrayed themselves as his adoptive parents and exploited him for financial gain.

Oher, whose life story was famously depicted in the Oscar-winning movie “The Blind Side,” filed a petition in a Tennessee court last month, alleging that the Tuohys had promised to adopt him but instead initiated a conservatorship that withheld millions of dollars from him.

Shelby County Probate Court Judge Kathleen Gomes issued the order to end the conservatorship, although the case has not been fully resolved. Several outstanding matters remain in Oher’s lawsuit, including financial claims and allegations of forged signatures.

CNN attempted to contact the attorneys representing Oher and the Tuohys for comment.

In Oher’s petition to the court, he requested an order for the Tuohys “to demonstrate why they failed to fulfill their required responsibilities to provide regular financial accounts or to act in the best interests of their ward, Michael J. Oher.”

In response to Oher’s claims, the Tuohys, in court documents filed in a Tennessee court, “strongly deny” the allegations that they were “enriching themselves at the expense of their Ward [Oher].”

They maintain that Oher never expressed a desire to terminate the conservatorship, either verbally or in writing, and asserted that they have always acted in Oher’s best interests.

In 1996, just before turning 11, Oher became a ward of the state of Tennessee and subsequently spent time living on the streets. He was eventually enrolled in school with the assistance of a friend’s father, where he began playing football. The petition notes that Oher had to take buses and walk for over an hour to get to school.

During the summer following his junior year, Oher started occasionally staying with Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy.

“While other parents of Michael’s classmates viewed Michael as a young man in need, Conservators Sean Tuohy and Leigh Anne Tuohy saw something different: a vulnerable young man with athletic talent that could be harnessed for their own benefit,” the petition alleges.

Oher Claims He Never Received Any Payment from the Movie

The petition alleges that the Tuohys did not initiate legal proceedings in juvenile court to obtain legal custody of Oher but instead encouraged him to spend more time at their home and accompanied him on shopping trips.

In July 2004, when Oher was 18 years old but still a student, the Tuohys extended an invitation for him to live with them, as outlined in the petition. Shortly after moving in, they presented him with legal documents that he believed were related to the adoption process, according to Oher’s claims.

These documents, as per the petition, granted conservators “complete control over Michael Oher’s ability to engage in or enter into any contracts,” despite him being over 18 years old and having no documented physical or psychological impairments.

Oher stated in the petition that the Tuohys never informed him that they would possess “ultimate control over all his contracts,” and the couple continued to falsely present themselves as his adoptive parents up to the time when the petition was filed.

Around September 2006, the Tuohys negotiated contracts related to the movie “The Blind Side,” which was based on the book chronicling Oher’s life story. These contracts included provisions for themselves and their two other children through the Creative Artists Agency. Each individual was set to receive “$225,000 plus 2.5% of all future ‘Defined Net Proceeds'” upon Oher’s agreement.

Additionally, there exists another contract from April 2007, purportedly signed by Michael Oher, in which Oher purportedly relinquished his name, likeness, voice, and more to the movie studio. Oher, however, claims that he did not receive any compensation from the film.

Oher believes that the signature on the contract resembles his own but is uncertain if it was forged because he maintains that he never willingly or knowingly signed a document that entailed surrendering rights to his name, image, and other aspects.

In their court response, the Tuohys assert that all proceeds from the movie were equally divided among Sean and Leigh Anne, their two children, and Oher, with each party receiving 20%. According to the Tuohys, Oher’s share was duly paid to him. Initially, they received the funds, covered the associated taxes for a period, and then issued Oher a check for his full 20% portion.

The petition requests that the Tuohys furnish a sworn financial account detailing the money that rightfully belongs to Oher and should have been paid to him.

Oher enjoyed an impressive college football career, starting 47 consecutive games at Ole Miss and earning consensus All-American honors in 2008.

In the 2009 NFL Draft, the Baltimore Ravens selected Oher with the 23rd overall pick in the 1st round. The 6-foot-5, 309-pound lineman made an immediate impact, finishing as the runner-up in the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year voting.

During his five-season tenure with the Baltimore Ravens, Oher played both left and right tackle, contributing to the team’s Super Bowl victory in 2013. Throughout his NFL career, which spanned eight seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans, and Carolina Panthers, he started 110 games.

According to Spotrac, a website tracking sports contracts, Oher accumulated earnings exceeding $34 million during his NFL career.

Reference

https://people.com/judge-terminating-michael-oher-conservatorship-with-tuohy-family-8286019

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2023/sep/29/michael-oher-conservatorship-ending-blind-side

https://www.foxnews.com/sports/tennessee-judge-terminating-conservatorship-agreement-michael-oher-tuohy-family

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