INDIANAPOLIS — Families of opioid epidemic victims were hoping a nationwide lawsuit against the manufacturer of Oxycontin would bring them justice. Some are celebrating a Supreme Court decision made Thursday to delay a settlement they feel wasn’t fair enough, but the Indiana Attorney General’s Office worries it could wipe out payments to people who were harmed altogether.

Indiana was set to receive $50 million under the agreement reached last year — part of roughly $6 billion the family that founded Purdue Pharma would need to pay up nationally. Attorney General Todd Rokita’s press secretary, Kelly Stevenson, said in a statement Indiana would use its portion to abate opioids and their effects. Families like Kristy and Bill Nelson, however, said the fight isn’t just about the money.

On January 14, 2009, 20-year-old Bryan Fentz was found unresponsive by his mother, Kristy Nelson, after a 14-month battle with opioid addiction.

“I replayed that (911) call in my mind every single morning,” Nelson said during an unprecedented hearing in March 2022. “It’s a living hell. A hell for which I place blame solely on you people.”

Kristy and her husband, Bill Nelson, were among 26 people chosen to testify in the federal bankruptcy case of OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma last spring.

“I too live every day with a giant hole in my heart,” Bill Nelson said while testifying.

Purdue Pharma was sued by local and state governments, including Indiana. While it would be required to pay those governments billions to help fight the opioid epidemic, an agreement was reached releasing members of the Sackler family, who own Purdue Pharma, from personal liability.

“It’s much more than money,” Kristy Nelson said Friday. “Had it not been for Richard Sackler and their whole family, my son would still be here. To me, he’s a murderer.”

“How do you compensate for the loss of a life?” Bill Nelson said Friday.

The Supreme Court is willing to hear arguments over whether bankruptcy court had the authority to shield the Sacklers, temporarily pumping the brakes on Purdue Pharma’s battle with the Nelsons and others.

“It was very good news,” Kristy Nelson said. “I was extremely ecstatic.”

On the other hand, Rokita’s office says the court’s review could potentially wipe out the settlement and put them at square one, costing millions more in attorney fees and delaying payments to those who were harmed. But the Nelsons said victims’ families wouldn’t see that money anyway.

“They want to take money for drug education and things like that,” Kristy Nelson said. “That’s great but that money wouldn’t have been needed, and the states wouldn’t have gotten it, had our children not have died.”

Although it wouldn’t bring their son back, the Nelsons want is an apology and prison time for Dr. Richard Sackler — the former president of Purdue Pharma.

“He committed a crime,” Bill Nelson said. “He should pay for it like all other drug dealers. Until we hear Richard Sackler say ‘I’m sorry, what I did was wrong,’ justice will never be served.”

A Purdue Pharma spokesperson said in a statement they are confident in the legality of their reorganization plan, and optimistic the Supreme Court will agree. FOX59 reached out to representatives of the Sackler family for comment. They have not responded.

You can read the full statements from Purdue Pharma and the attorney general’s office below:

We are confident in the legality of our nearly universally supported Plan of Reorganization, and optimistic that the Supreme Court will agree. Even so, we are disappointed that the U.S. Trustee, despite having no concrete interest in the outcome of this process, has been able to single-handedly delay billions of dollars in value that should be put to use for victim compensation, opioid crisis abatement for communities across the country, and overdose rescue medicines.

Michele Sharp, Purdue Pharma spokesperson

Many Hoosiers sadly lost their lives or loved ones due to overdoses. Meanwhile, Purdue Pharma continued their destructive marketing tactics and made billions of dollars from OxyContin, a painkiller which largely contributed to the nationwide opioid epidemic. Due to the Biden administration’s interference, the Supreme Court halted an agreement reached last year with both state and local governments. For Indiana, the settlement means $50 million to abate opioids and their effects. This could potentially wipe out this settlement and put the bankruptcy back at square one – costing millions more in attorney fees and delay or eliminate payments to those harmed.

Kelly Stevenson, Attorney General’s Office Press Secretary