The justices found that the fact that the bid for fees was based on a contract rather than a statute was not enough to distinguish the case from the court's 1988 decision in Budinich v. Becton Dickinson & Co., which held that a decision on the merits is a "final decision" that can be appealed even if the award or amount of attorneys' fees for the litigation remains to be determined.Or, in Justice Kennedy's own words:
Federal courts of appeals have jurisdiction of appeals from "final decisions" of United States district courts. 28 U. S. C. §1291. In Budinich v. Becton Dickinson & Co., 486 U. S. 196 (1988), this Court held that a decision on the merits is a "final decision" under §1291 even if the award or amount of attorney’s fees for the litigation remains to be determined. The issue in this case is whether a different result obtains if the unresolved claim for attorney’s fees is based on a contract rather than, or in addition to, a statute. The answer here, for purposes of §1291 and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, is that the result is not different. Whether the claim for attorney’s fees is based on a statute, a contract, or both, the pendency of a ruling on an award for fees and costs does not prevent, as a general rule, the merits judgment from becoming final for purposes of appeal.