English law distinguishes between those who contract to supply a product and those who provide a service. In the case of the former, there is a duty to provide a product that is reasonably fit for its intended purpose; in the latter, the duty is only to take reasonable care in providing the service. Since Henderson v. Merrett Syndicates Ltd  2 AC 145 it has been clear that this duty can arise both in contract and in tort. The 1970s saw a rapid expansion in tortious liability, starting with the case of Dutton and culminating in Murphy in 1990 (these cases are discussed in greater detail in Chapter 14). The effect of cases such as D&F Estates and Murphy (see below) has been to reinforce the primary distinction between the law of contract and the law of tort. In Esso Petroleum Co. v. Mardon  2 WLR 583, the Court of Appeal held that where the same set of facts amounted to a breach of contract and a tort, the plaintiff could choose in which action to frame a claim. This produced a number of advantages to prospective claimants. A major one is that the limitation period in tort is longer, since a tort action can be brought when the limitation period in contract has expired. An example of such a case is Pirelli General Cable Works Ltd v. Oscar Faber and Partners  2 AC 1. A chimney had been constructed at the plaintiff’s factory and was completed in 1970.
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