The Tuohys could have adopted Michael Oher … they didn’t

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(NewsNation) — The legal battle brewing between Michael Oher, the former NFL player whose story was depicted in the Oscar-winning movie “The Blind Side,” and his former family, the Tuohys, is about to get a lot messier.

SAN JOSE, CA – FEBRUARY 02: Tackle Michael Oher #73 of the Carolina Panther addresses the media prior to Super Bowl 50 at the San Jose Convention Center/ San Jose Marriott on February 2, 2016 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

On Monday, Oher filed a jaw-dropping petition in the courts alleging he unknowingly authorized Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy to be his conservators in 2004 … when he thought they were adopting him.

“Michael trusted the Tuohys and signed where they told him to sign,” the legal filing claims. “What he signed, however, and unknown to Michael until after February 2023, were not adoption papers, or the equivalent of adoption papers.”

The conservatorship allowed the Tuohy family to handle Oher’s “business affairs” — including signing off on the rights to “The Blind Side.”

The revelation that he was not in fact adopted and legally a part of the Tuohy family devastated Oher.

“Mike didn’t grow up with a stable family life. When the Tuohy family told Mike they loved him and wanted to adopt him, it filled a void that had been with him his entire life,” Oher’s attorney, J. Gerard Stranch IV, told ESPN. “Discovering that he wasn’t actually adopted devastated Mike and wounded him deeply.”

The Tuohys claim they legally could not adopt Oher as he was over the age of 18 when he came into their family and that their only option was a conservatorship if Oher wanted to play for Ole Miss.

“Michael was obviously living with us for a long time, and the NCAA didn’t like that,” Sean Tuohy told the Daily Memphian. “They said the only way Michael could go to Ole Miss was if he was actually part of the family. I sat Michael down and told him, ‘If you’re planning to go to Ole Miss — or even considering Ole Miss — we think you have to be part of the family. This would do that, legally.’ We contacted lawyers who had told us that we couldn’t adopt over the age of 18; the only thing we could do was to have a conservatorship. We were so concerned it was on the up-and-up that we made sure the biological mother came to court.”

However, according to Tennessee law, the Tuohy family could have adopted Oher — as an adult. According to this Washington University Law Review article, Tennessee has allowed adult adoption (adoptions of people 18 or older) since at least 1972.  

Thomas White, a family law attorney with Fidelis Law in Brentwood, Tennessee, who does adult adoptions, told me: “Adult adoption was legal when (Oher) lived with (the Tuohys). They could legally adopt him today if they wanted. When you legally adopt an adult it puts in place the legal right of the (now child) for inheritance — and they can legally change their name and even get their birth certificate changed.”

The Tuohys’ biological children are said to be in line to inherit the family’s $200 million fortune that they amassed mostly from selling their fast-food franchise empire.

NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 17: (L-R) The family the film is based on Collins Tuohy, Sean Tuohy Jr. Leigh Anne Tuohy and Sean Tuohy attend “The Blind Side” premiere at the Ziegfeld Theatre on November 17, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)

It’s all about the money

Adding to Oher’s annoyance? Not only did his “adoptive” family use his name and their “adoption” to promote their foundation and Leigh Anne’s work as an author and motivational speaker … they also profited handsomely off the movie, whereas Oher didn’t get anything. According to the legal filing, the movie paid the Tuohys and their two biological children $225,000 each, plus 2.5% of the film’s “defined net proceeds” while Oher “gave away” his life rights to 20th Century Fox Studios.

As for making money off “The Blind Side,” Sean Tuohy told the Daily Memphian: “We didn’t make any money off the movie. Well, Michael Lewis (the author of the book ‘The Blind Side’) gave us half of his share. Everybody in the family got an equal share, including Michael. It was about $14,000, each.”

But Sean Tuohy told a different story when he was interviewed by Barstool Sports, admitting he made “60 or 70 grand” over the years from the movie residuals, money Oher claims he’s never received.

A lawyer for the Tuohy family, Martin Singer, denied Oher’s claims and in a statement to Entertainment Tonight said: “In reality, the Tuohys opened their home to Mr. Oher, offered him structure, support and, most of all, unconditional love. They have consistently treated him like a son and one of their three children. His response was to threaten them, including saying that he would plant a negative story about them in the press unless they paid him $15 million.”

The Tuohy family statement also says the idea they sought to profit off Oher is “not only offensive, it is transparently ridiculous.” The statement notes the Tuohys are worth “hundreds of millions of dollars” and the notion they would “connive to withhold a few thousand dollars” defies belief.

Calls to Oher and the Tuohys’ lawyers were not returned.


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