When Michael Oher became a coveted college football rookie in 2004, the 18-year-old high school student agreed in court to allow the Memphis couple who lived with him to do the work for him about signing the contract. and any medical decisions.
Sean Anne Tuohy and Leigh Anne Tuohy adopted Oher, who lived in Tennessee’s foster care system and at one point lived on the streets. The judge-approved agreement, called “Protection,” was signed with the permission of Oher’s biological mother, about two months after Oher signed to play the offensive line for the University of Mississippi, where Sean Tuey was a former Mississippi A great basketball player in college.
Nineteen years later, Oher asked for the agreement to be terminated in a probate court document, accusing the Toohey family of enriching themselves at his expense and making them his protectors rather than his adoptive parents by having him sign papers to deceive him. Oher, who played eight seasons in the NFL, claims the Toohees never took legal action for custody until he was 18, despite being told to address them as “Mom” and “Daddy.”
Oher’s request, whose life story was adapted into the Oscar-nominated film “The Flaw,” has sparked scrutiny of the Tooheys and the agreement itself, with one expert questioning how the judge approved it.
Victoria Haneman, a professor of trusts and estates at Creighton University School of Law, said: “There are a lot of things that are not only unusual, but also shocking, and maybe things that have never been seen before, even for this day. The same is true for lawyers with experience in the field.”
Oher, 37, sought a full accounting of the assets, considering his life story generated millions, though he said he received nothing from the film. He accused the Tooheies of falsely claiming to be his adoptive parents, and said he only found out in February that custody did not give him any kinship with them.
The Toohees said they loved Oher as much as their son and supported him while he lived with them and through college. Their lawyers said they were appalled by the allegations against Oher, who had been estranged from them for about a decade.
In Tennessee, custody takes away a person’s power to make decisions for themselves, and it’s usually reserved for medical conditions or disabilities. But his custody was granted “even though he was 18 years of age and had no diagnosed physical or mental disability,” his petition said.
The Tooheys said they set up the regulator to help Oher get health insurance, get a driver’s license and go to college.Their lawyer said in a statement wednesday press conference The Toohees never got any money from Oher’s NFL contract or sneaker deal, they split the money from “The Blind Side,” and the couple, their two kids, and Oher made roughly $100,000 each Dollar.
Attorney Randall Fishman said the Toohey family did not adopt Oher because the NCAA was concerned that the Toohey family did not simply lure a talented athlete to the University of Mississippi, so the takeover satisfied the NCAA’s concerns the fastest way.
“There’s one thing that needs to be done and that’s for him to be part of the family so the NCAA is going to be happy because Sean is going to be a driver for the college,” Fishman said.
Attorneys for the Tooheys say they intend to end the supervision and that the accounting treatment requested by Orr is not difficult.
Still, the way in which the agreement was reached has raised concerns about Hahneman, the Creighton professor.
“Frankly, I’m appalled that any judge would allow them to use regulatory power in this way, you know, to circumvent NCAA rules,” she said.
Hahnemann also questioned why the oversight didn’t include a medical affidavit showing the disability, or appointing a guardian ad litem to protect Oher and provide “an independent eye.” Both are often part of regulation, she said.
Hahnemann said there are other legal options available, such as powers of attorney, which would not take away Oher’s “legal capacity.”
“At the end of the day, you don’t put adults in custody just because they need help with their driver’s license or college applications,” Hahnemann said.
Fishman said a medical affidavit was not required because Oher had no mental or physical disabilities. In addition, Oher has no assets to check, and the Toohey family has only been appointed as “personal protectors”.
“People keep saying, ‘Well, you have to have some sort of problem to be a ward of the regulator,'” Fishman said Thursday. “That’s not true. He just needed some guidance and that’s why the court did it.”
Fishman said the guardianship issue was waived because Oher was 18 and his mother had given her consent.
Another of Toui’s attorneys, Martin Singer, said in a statement that profit participation checks and studio accounting statements support Oher’s claim that he received money from the film.
When Oher refused to cash the check, the Tuhees deposited Oher’s shares into his son’s trust account, the statement said.
The couple said agents negotiated an advance for the Tooheys with the production company for the show, which is based on a book, “The Vulnerability,” written by Sean Toohey’s friend Michael Lewis.
Lewis told The Washington Post that those involved in the book did not receive millions of dollars. Regarding the hundreds of millions of dollars in profits made from the film, Lewis said he and the Toohey family received about $350,000 each, after taxes and agency fees.
“It’s outrageous how Hollywood accounting works, but the money isn’t in the Toohey family’s pockets,” Lewis told the paper in an interview published Wednesday.
Biopic characters often don’t make a lot of money because they have little influence on the film’s success, said Julie Shapiro, director of the Entertainment and Media Law Institute at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
“For the most part, it’s the cast, the director and the writer who determine the financial success of a project,” Shapiro said. A studio doesn’t need to take someone’s “right to life” to tell a story. But she said they often do so to prevent lawsuits.
Orr’s Petition Never been a fan of this movie With regard to his life, the Toohey family is required to be sanctioned and compensated for damages.
Some have questioned why the Tooheys didn’t just adopt the adult Oher.
“There’s no real clear answer as to what the legal barriers are for them to complete the adoption,” Hahnemann said. “They did say (Wednesday) that it’s a matter of time, but that time matter won’t stop them from completing the adoption while he’s at the University of Mississippi.”