Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy have hit back at Michael Oher, claiming there was “never an intent to adopt him” despite the former NFL player’s bombshell lawsuit alleging he was tricked into entering a conservatorship.
The Tuohy couple filed their response to Oher’s lawsuit on Thursday in the Shelby County Probate Court in Tennessee. In the legal filing, the Tuohys said they “are ready, willing, and able” to end Oher’s conservatorship.
Oher, whose life served as inspiration for the book and film The Blind Side, filed a lawsuit against the Tuohys that accused them of using a conservatorship to gain control of his finances. He claimed Sean and Leigh Anne have made “millions” profiting off his name and story since the Oscar-winning movie was released in 2009. Oher has never been a fan of the movie about his life.
In the new filing, the Tuohys, both 63, “vehemently deny” that they ever told Oher, 37, he would be adopted.
They note that though they “occasionally” called Oher “son,” the word was always used “in the colloquial sense.” The Tuohys said they have always felt Oher was like a son to them, just not in a legal sense. The couple does not believe calling Oher “son” ever caused him “any irreparable harm,” as he claimed in his own lawsuit.
They asked the court to dismiss Oher’s request for financial compensation. Oher also asked for the Tuohys to file a fulsome accounting of his finances, which the couple admitted they have never done.
The Tuohys have maintained they established a conservatorship when he was 18 to help Oher obtain health insurance and a driver’s licence and be admitted to college. They said the conservatorship allowed Oher to skirt NCAA rules that may have impeded his ability to play football for the University of Mississippi, where the Tuohys were donors.
In his lawsuit, Oher said he did not know about the conservatorship until February 2023. The Tuohy couple claimed Oher was aware of the arrangement and pointed to his 2011 memoir I Beat The Odds as proof, since Oher referred to the Tuohys as his “legal conservators.”
Oher previously argued the Tuohys saw him as “a gullible young man whose athletic talent could be exploited for their own benefit.” He’s asked for a full accounting of the money earned off the use of his name and story.
The Tuohys claimed they “never negotiated any contract with 20th Century Fox or others” in regard to the movie The Blind Side. They said arrangements were made by Michael Lewis, who wrote the book The Blind Side.
The Tuohys said the payment from the film was split between them, Oher and the couple’s two biological children, Collins Tuohy and Sean Tuohy Jr.
They claimed everyone, including Oher, “received a portion of the money paid to Michael Lewis which was something less than US$225,000” (about C$304,500).
“It is important to note that (Oher’s) share was paid to (the Tuohys) who paid the taxes due on these funds for some period of time but still cut a check for a full share (20%) to (Oher),” the legal filing reads.
Oher has not yet commented publicly on the Tuohys’ legal response.
The Tuohys claimed last month that Oher has, in the past, attempted to extract money from them and threatened to plant a negative story in the press if the Tuohys didn’t pay him US$15 million (just over C$20.2 million).
Oher was the 23rd overall pick in the 2009 draft out of Mississippi, and he spent his first five seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, where he won a Super Bowl. He played 110 games over eight NFL seasons, including 2014, when he started 11 games for the Tennessee Titans. Oher finished his career with two years in Carolina.
He released a new memoir about his life last month, titled When Your Back’s Against the Wall: Fame, Football, and Lessons Learned through a Lifetime of Adversity.
— With files from Global News’ Kathryn Mannie
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