A bankruptcy judge has ruled that General Motors Corp. can sell the bulk of its assets to a new company, potentially clearing the way for the automaker to quickly emerge from bankruptcy protection.

U.S. Judge Robert Gerber said the sale was in the best interests of both GM and its creditors, whom he said would otherwise get nothing. But a Chicago law firm representing people who have sued GM in several auto accident cases said yesterday it would appeal to U.S. District Court in New York.

The deadline to appeal is Thursday, after which the sale is free to close.