Lawyers for the Tennessee couple who took in former NFL star Michael Oher as a teenager on Wednesday denied accusations they had cheated him out of earnings from the Oscar-winning movie about his life.
Oher, 37, whose inspirational life story was the subject of the 2009 film, “The Blind Side”, accused Leigh Anne Tuohy and her husband Sean Tuohy in a court filing on Monday of tricking him into signing away control of his financial affairs.
The Super Bowl-winning former Baltimore Ravens player also alleges the Tuohys misled him into believing he had been legally adopted by the couple when in fact they had established a conservatorship.
The Tuohys, who Oher moved in with as a teenager after spending years in foster care, deny any wrongdoing.
On Wednesday, the couple’s attorneys, Steven Farese Sr. and Randall Fishman pushed back forcefully at Oher’s claims.
Farese said the Tuohys had never taken any of Oher’s career earnings, from the movie or otherwise.
“We’re talking about a family trying to help someone in need,” Farese said. “The Tuohys did not control any of Mr. Oher’s finances.
“Mr Oher picked his own agent when he turned pro, Mr Oher signed his own contract and negotiated it through his agent… (the Tuohys) did not share in his monies, they did not control any shoe contracts, anything of that nature.
“The Tuohys treated him like a son. They loved him.”
Farese noted that Sean Tuohy was independently wealthy in his own right, and had sold a chain of fast-food restaurants for $220 million.
“They don’t need his money. They’ve never needed his money,” Farese said.
“He didn’t need Mr Oher’s money. This is a sad day. It’s devastating to the family and we hope that it doesn’t have a chilling effect on others who want to help needy individuals.”
Oher’s legal filing on Monday alleged that the Tuohys used the conservatorship to pocket millions of dollars from the success of “The Blind Side”, which earned more than $300 million at the box office.
Another attorney for the Tuohys, Marty Singer, said in a statement that claims the couple had withheld money from Oher were “hurtful and absurd.”
“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,'” Singer said.
Michael Lewis, who wrote the book on which “The Blind Side” was based, said he and the Tuohy family received around $350,000 each from the profits of the movie, which was shared evenly.
“What I feel really sad about is I watched the whole thing up close,” Lewis told the Washington Post on Wednesday.
“They showered him with resources and love. That he’s suspicious of them is breathtaking. The state of mind one has to be in to do that — I feel sad for him.”