Hunker down with a mug of coffee and your favorite advice columnist, thankful that this letter isnt about you.

Dear Ann:

I have a little problem one which weighs 68 pounds, to be exact. Yesterday, my 10-year-old, Robbie, finally got sick of being called toothpick by Bruno, a 5th grade classmate. Since he couldnt haul off and whack 95-pound Bruno, he beamed a laser pointer into Bruno's eyes, a la Star Wars.

Well, three hours later, Bruno's mother (who has a weight problem of her own, but never mind that) called, screaming that Robbie had nearly blinded Bruno, and we'd get opthalmologist and emergency room bills as soon as they came out of the printer.

This is ridiculous - the woman is making a big deal out of what's basically a school yard fight. I wasnt anywhere near the goings-on, anyhow. Could Bruno's mom really collect from us?

Sign me, Mother of a No-Longer Bullied Toothpick

No Town, U.S.A.

Unfortunately, Robbie's mother could be in for a shock (and a thinner wallet.) Most states now hold parents responsible for some of the mindless damage their kids cause.

The increased violence of juvenile acts and the publics horrified reaction have convinced legislatures throughout the United States to pass parental liability laws, now on the books in 47 states.

Many states hold parents responsible for their childs mistakes which damage property or hurt someone. Individual laws vary widely -- for example, eight states hold parents responsible only for crimes under the state statute. If your kids a true Dennis the Menace, move to Washington, D.C., the only jurisdiction without a parental liability law.

Examples of clueless parenthood such as the Columbine High School massacre spring to mind, but most parents are more likely to confront less onerous situations in which kids find themselves every day.

In Ohio, for example, youll find the long finger of the state pointed at you in section 2307.70 of the Ohio Revised Code, which reads:

ny person who suffers injury or loss to person or property as a result of an act committed in violation (of three other Code sections) by an unmarried child under the age of 18 has a civil action against the parents and may recover in that action compensatory damages, costs and attorney'sfees,not to exceed $5000.00. The parents and their child are joint and severally liable.

Whoa! Lets back up and see what this is all about, anyway. Read on for some basics about parental liability.

Next: Parental Liability -- The Basics