Victor Gruen sent a series of letters to his son, Michael (plaintiff), indicating his intention to give Michael a valuable painting for his 21st birthday. Victor did not deliver the painting but kept it in his multiple residences. The painting was to be given to Michael upon Victor’s death, with Victor holding a life estate in the painting. Michael acknowledged the gift to his friends and associates and held both letters for over 17 years to verify the gift after his father's death. Upon Victor’s death, Victor’s wife and Michael’s stepmother, Ms. Gruen (defendant), refused to give Michael the painting. Michael then brought this action. The special term court determined that by retaining a life estate in the painting, Victor invalidated the gift. Michael appealed. The Appellate Division found that a gift is valid even if a life estate is retained in the gift. Ms. Gruen petitioned for certiorari to the Court of Appeals of New York.