In 1977, Thomas and Leila Krenik (defendants) executed a deed of trust to secure a bank's loan of money for the purchase of real property. In 1981, the Kreniks sold the property to Marie Swanson (plaintiff), who assumed the Kreniks' loan and gave them a second deed of trust on the property. In 1983, Swanson sold the property to Ray Rush and Howard Luther, Jr., who also assumed the Kreniks' loan, and who gave Swanson a third deed of trust on the property. The 1983 sale contract stipulated that the Kreniks, Swanson, Rush, and Luther were jointly and severally bound to repay the bank's loan, but the contract also stated that it did not change the then-existing relative liability of the Kreniks and Swanson. In 1986, Rush and Luther defaulted on the loan, and in 1988, the bank initiated foreclosure proceedings against the Kreniks, Swanson, Rush, and Luther. The trial court permitted the bank to foreclose on the property, but the property sold for less than the loan amount, leaving the bank with a $1,173,992 deficiency. Rush and Luther had declared bankruptcy in 1989, so they could not make up this deficiency. Swanson counterclaimed against the Kreniks, contending that they were her co-sureties on the loan and therefore shared her liability for any deficiency judgment in favor of the bank. The court ruled for the Kreniks, and Swanson appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court.