A US court has ruled people affected by faulty ignition switches in General Motors cars can sue the company.
The potential lawsuits over the defect that led to hundreds of injuries and deaths could lead to billions of dollars in charges for the carmaker.
Wednesday’s ruling overturns part of GM’s 2009 bankruptcy agreement that protected the carmaker from claims stemming from earlier crashes.
The defect resulted in the recall of 2.6 million vehicles in 2014.
In 2015, a judge ruled that once GM emerged from bankruptcy it was a new company and not liable for pre-bankruptcy charges.
James Cain, a spokesman for GM, said the company was still “digesting its options”.
“The [court’s] ruling neither addresses nor decides the merits of any claims,” Mr Cain said.
Robert Hilliard, an attorney representing the victims, estimates the cases could lead to billions in payouts by GM and said the ruling gave victims their day in court.
“The [court] in a sound and substantive way, called GM out for its cover-up, its lies and its attempts to use bankruptcy as a way to hide from the victims,” he said.
The judges on the appeals court ruled the 40-days it took for GM to go through the bankruptcy process, did give victims sufficient time to bring their cases.
“Due process applies even in a company’s moment of crisis,” they wrote in the court’s decision.