The Blind Side, the 2009 film starring Sandra Bullock, turned the story of a gifted high school football player into a lucrative well of money for the family who brought him in and changed his life. Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy have proudly presented themselves as retired NFL athlete Michael Oher’s adoptive parents in recent years, but new court documents filed in Shelby County, Tennessee and obtained by ESPN allege that a formal adoption never occurred.

The 14-page petition seeking to end the conservatorship claims that in February 2023 — nearly 20 years after the Tuohy family became Oher’s legal guardians in 2004, which was just four months after he turned 18 — the now 37-year-old learned that they were not ever actually his parents, only his conservators with legal authority over his business deals.

“The lie of Michael’s adoption is one upon which Co-Conservators Leigh Anne Tuohy and Sean Tuohy have enriched themselves at the expense of their Ward, the undersigned Michael Oher,” the documents read. “Michael Oher discovered this lie to his chagrin and embarrassment in February of 2023, when he learned that the Conservatorship to which he consented on the basis that doing so would make him a member of the Tuohy family, in fact provided him no familial relationship with the Tuohys.”

Representatives Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.

The petition seeks to end the conservatorship and with that comes the matter of the financial gain the Tuohy family has garnered in the time since it was enacted. “Since at least August of 2004, Conservators have allowed Michael, specifically, and the public, generally, to believe that Conservators adopted Michael and have used that untruth to gain financial advantages for themselves and the foundations which they own or which they exercise control,” the documents read. “All monies made in said manner should in all conscience and equity be disgorged and paid over to the said ward, Michael Oher.”

The petition requests that an injunction be issued to prevent the family from using Oher’s name and likeness in addition to seeking a full accounting of their earnings, retroactive share of profits, and compensatory and punitive damages in an unspecified amount.

Based on Michael Lewis’ 2006 book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, The Blind Side film grossed more than $300 million at the box office and has continued to rack up earnings in home video sales. Representatives for Sandra Bullock, who portrayed Leigh-Anne Tuohy, did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.

The deal the Tuohys signed, according to the petition, earned Sean and Leigh-Anne as well as their two birth children $225,000 each. Additionally, they earned 2.5 percent of the film’s “defined net proceeds.” The family allegedly began negotiating a movie deal shortly after the release of Lewis’ book. In their 2010 book In a Heartbeat: Sharing the Power of Cheerful Giving, the family claims that any money they earned was divided five ways. The court petition states that Oher never received money from the film.

Through a separate contract allegedly signed by Oher in 2007, 20th Century Fox Studios was granted the life rights to his story “without any payment whatsoever,” according to the legal filing. The document claims that Oher doesn’t recall signing the paperwork and states that if he did in fact place his name on the contract, the extent of its implications were not explained to him. Oher’s NFL career began in 2009, around the same time the Academy Award-nominated film was making its mark on pop culture. He retired in 2016 after eight seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans, and Carolina Panthers.


In his 2011 memoir I Beat the Odds, Oher wrote that he was aware that he was being signed into a conservatorship at 18. However, he claims — based on what was told to him by the Tuohy family — that there was barely a distinction between that process and an official adoption, which would have legally made him part of the family. “They explained to me that it means pretty much the exact same thing as ‘adoptive parents,’ but that the laws were just written in a way that took my age into account,” he wrote. The major distinction was the decision-making power and financial control.

“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, who found the conservatorship document earlier this year, stated. “Discovering that he wasn’t actually adopted devastated Mike and wounded him deeply.”