Legal Arrangement in ‘Blind Side’ Case Is Terminated

by The Technical Blogs


A probate judge in Memphis ended an unusual legal arrangement on Friday between Michael Oher, a former National Football League player and the subject of the hit movie “The Blind Side,” and the people who took him in when he was a teenager, which had given them broad authority over Mr. Oher’s affairs.

Mr. Oher, 37, filed a petition in August to terminate the nearly 20-year-old conservatorship, claiming that he had been tricked into signing away his decision-making powers under the pretense that he would be adopted. The petition stated that Leigh Anne Tuohy and Sean Tuohy, with whom Mr. Oher started staying when he was 16, were given power of attorney and access to his medical records, and that he could not bind himself to any contracts without their approval.

The move by the judge was largely expected; the Tuohys had said at the time the petition was filed that they were happy to have the conservatorship end.

Based on the book by Michael Lewis, “The Blind Side” is one of the most popular and highest-earning sports movies in American history, grossing more than $300 million upon its release in 2009 and earning Sandra Bullock an Academy Award for her portrayal of Ms. Tuohy. But it has also been criticized for perpetuating stereotypes about Black athletes like Mr. Oher needing help from white, wealthy benefactors like the Tuohys.

Mr. Oher is also seeking money that he has said he should have earned from the movie, an injunction preventing the Tuohys from using his name and likeness, and an accounting of all the times that the Tuohys enriched themselves from “the lie of Michael’s adoption,” the petition said.

The judge did not dismiss the case. The deputy clerk of the court said that no date had been set for another hearing.

Lawyers for Mr. Oher did not immediately return requests for comment. A spokesman for the Tuohys did not respond to a request for comment.

The Tuohys have denied wrongdoing. They have said that they sought the conservatorship only so Mr. Oher would be able to attend their alma mater, the University of Mississippi, to play football. The aim, they said, was to appease the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which had been suspicious of the fact that the Tuohys were prominent boosters of the school and had taken Mr. Oher in.

In a legal filing on Sept. 14, the Tuohys said that they had never intended to legally adopt Mr. Oher and that they never told Mr. Oher that they would adopt him. In a 2010 book they wrote, however, the Tuohys refer to adopting Mr. Oher, and they have publicly referred to him as their adopted son.

The conservatorship was created under unusual circumstances. It was granted despite a finding that Mr. Oher had “no known physical or psychological disabilities.” In Tennessee, a conservatorship is designed to protect an individual “with a disability who lacks capacity to make decisions in one or more important areas.”

On Friday, the judge in Memphis, Kathleen Gomes, said that she could not “believe it got done” and that she had never seen a conservatorship granted under such circumstances.

The judge in the original petition for the arrangement, Robert Benham, told The New York Times last month that he disputed the idea that a conservatorship could be granted only under such circumstances. But he said he ultimately granted the conservatorship because there was no opposition to the arrangement from the people at the hearing, including the Tuohys, Mr. Oher, the lawyer filing the petition and Denise Oher, Michael’s mother.

Ms. Oher said in a recent interview that she didn’t recall a conservatorship being discussed at the hearing. She said that she thought she was present only to approve a name change for Michael, whose birth name was Williams.


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