Retired NFL player Michael Oher, whose life story inspired the Oscar-winning film "The Blind Side," is alleging that he has not seen any money from the use of his name, image and likeness over the last 19 years. He claims that his conservators, previously believed to be his adoptive parents, "flagrantly disregarded their statutory and fiduciary duties" to him during that time.
It's the latest development in the offensive lineman's lawsuit against the Tuohy family, whom Oher accused in legal documents last week of tricking him into a conservatorship instead of adopting him as a 19-year-old and allegedly filching millions in revenue from the 2009 film that starred Sandra Bullock.
In response to the lawsuit last week, Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy's attorney, Martin D. Singer, accused Oher of repeatedly attempting to shake down the couple for $15 million.
The 37-year-old athlete's legal team filed a motion in Tennessee probate court on Monday to compel accounting from Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy, requesting a response within two weeks. In the filing, obtained Tuesday by The Times, Oher accused the couple of keeping nearly two decades' worth of financial information from their ward — whom they had referred to for years as their adopted son — and used him for their business and marketing ventures without his fully informed consent.
"Co-Conservators have failed to file the first accounting [within seven months of their 2004 appointment] and have failed to timely file a single accounting for the last 19 years. The Court never granted an extension of time for doing so," the motion said, accusing the Tuohys of a "failure to uphold their fiduciary duty" to do so.
That failure, Oher's attorneys argued, meant that the athlete "was excluded from knowing the full extent of any contracts negotiated on his behalf by his Co-Conservators," particularly the 2006 contract negotiated with what was then 20th Century Fox for Michael Lewis' book "The Blind Side: The Evolution of the Game." The book, written by Sean Tuohy's childhood friend, was adapted into the John Lee Hancock film that starred Quinton Aaron as Oher and Bullock as his spitfire adoptive mom.
The Monday motion also said that Oher has "no knowledge of the income generated through said contracts, and that he has no knowledge of the income generated from the Co-Conservators use of his name, likeness, and image."
The retired Baltimore Ravens tackle said that he "never permitted [the Tuohys] to use his name, likeness, and image in any way," adding that instead of protecting him, they used Oher "to enrich themselves at the Ward's expense" and "granted themselves unfettered access" to assets by virtue of their co-conservator status.
The athlete last week asked the court to end the Tuohys’ conservatorship and issue an injunction barring them from using his name, image and likeness, as well as “continuing false claims” that they adopted him at any time. He’s also seeking his fair share of profits, in addition to unspecified compensatory and punitive damages and attorney’s fees.
Oher claimed in his latest filing that he was never presented with "any written documentation to show any earnings they derived from the movie: "Their Ward has been kept in the dark, forced to rely on verbal assurances from his Co-Conservators."
He alleged that he has made multiple requests to the family to stop — as recently as Aug. 14 — but said they have "ignored" his requests.
Representatives for the Tuohys did not immediately respond Tuesday to The Times' requests for comment.
In a statement to The Times last week, the Tuohys' attorney said his clients would be willing to terminate their “upfront” conservatorship if Oher desired, but also would "not hesitate to defend their good names, stand up to this shakedown and defeat this offensive lawsuit.”
“In reality, the Tuohys opened their home to Mr. Oher, offered him structure, support and, most of all, unconditional love,” Singer’s statement said. “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.”
Singer said that when Lewis was approached about turning his 2006 book about the All-American teen and his family into a movie, the writer's agents negotiated a deal “where they received a small advance from the production company and a tiny percentage of net profits.”
"They insisted that any money received be divided equally. And they have made good on that pledge,” Singer said. “The evidence — documented in profit participation checks and studio accounting statements — is clear: Over the years, the Tuohys have given Mr. Oher an equal cut of every penny received from ‘The Blind Side.’”
At a news conference with the family in Memphis, Tenn., last Wednesday, two family attorneys, Randall Fishman and Steven Farese, insisted that each member of the Tuohy family — including Oher — was paid about $100,000 for the movie. Oher's petition alleged that they were paid $225,000 each for the film plus 2.5% of the film's proceeds.)
"He's been estranged probably for the last 10 years," Farese added, according to ET, "and becoming more and more vocal and more and more threatening."
Oher made his first public appearance since filing the lawsuit last week to promote his new memoir — "When Your Back's Against the Wall: Fame, Football and Lessons Learned Through a Lifetime of Adversity" — at the Ivy Bookstore in Baltimore. The memoir, which follows his 2011 book, “I Beat the Odds,” was released Aug. 8.
Singer also accused Oher of filing the "ludicrous lawsuit" as "a cynical attempt to drum up attention in the middle of his latest book tour."
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.