Gruen v. Gruen

68 N.Y.2d 48, 496 N.E.2d 869, 505 N.Y.S.2d 849 (1986)


Gruen's (P) father sent him a letter that gave him a painting. However, his father wanted to retain possession of it for the rest of his life. The father sent a second letter, for tax reasons, describing the gift without referring to the life estate. The father asked P to destroy the first letter. P never took possession of the painting nor did he seek to do so. After P's father died, P attempted to get the painting from his stepmother, Gruen (D). D refused; a valid inter vivos gift had not been made, because the father retained a life estate, and no physical delivery was made during his lifetime. P sued seeking a declaration that he was the rightful owner. The trial court gave the verdict to D. The appellate court reversed and remitted the matter for determination of value. P was awarded $2,500,000 in damages. D appealed.