A man serving prison time for causing a fatal crash in 2021 now faces a civil lawsuit filed by the victim’s widow and an insurance company.
Charles Joshua Corathers received a 20-year penitentiary sentence in Warren County Circuit Court on Feb. 7 for committing one count of aggravated involuntary manslaughter on June 6, 2021. Judge Clark Ritchie sentenced Corathers to the maximum punishment allowed under Virginia law. Ritchie also sentenced Corathers, 31, of Rivermont Acres Road, Front Royal, to 10 years with eight years suspended for cocaine possession, the same term for fentanyl possession, and 12 months for driving under the influence of drugs. Ritchie ordered all terms to run consecutively.
Corathers drove a 2006 Ford Focus while under the influence of fentanyl on June 6, 2021, eastbound on Va. 55 (Strasburg Road). His car crossed the center line near Fort Valley Road and struck an oncoming motorcycle head-on, according to police reports. The motorcyclist, John L. Cunningham, 33, of Strasburg, who was wearing a helmet, died from multiple blunt force injuries as a result of the collision, according to court records. Cunningham was wearing a helmet.
Cunningham’s widow, Katherine Cunningham, administrator of the victim’s estate, and his motor vehicle insurance carrier, GEICO Indemnity Company, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Corathers in Warren County Circuit Court on Feb. 27. In the two-count complaint filed on Katherine Cunningham’s behalf by Richmond attorney Michael P. Murphy, the plaintiff states Corathers had a duty on June 6, 2021, to operate his vehicle with reasonable care and with regard for others using the road.
“Notwithstanding his duties, Corathers operated said vehicle in a grossly negligent manner while under the influence of drugs in such a manner that it collided with Cunningham’s vehicle with great force and violence,” the complaint states. “In the alternative, Corathers carelessly, recklessly and negligently operated said vehicle so that it collided with Cunningham’s vehicle with great force and violence.”
Had the victim not died, he could have taken civil action against Corathers, according to the complaint. Corathers was an uninsured motorist at the time of the collision, the complaint states. Katherine Cunningham submitted a claim as the administrator of the victim’s estate to his insurance carrier, GEICO Indemnity Company for wrongful death. GEICO paid her $250,000 — the limit of the victim’s uninsured motorist insurance policy. A judge in Fauquier County Circuit Court approved the settlement between Katherine Cunningham and GEICO.
The second count of the complaint alleges negligence by Corathers that resulted in damage to the victim’s motorcycle valued at $6,563.
Katherine Cunningham demands judgment against Corathers of $256,563 with interest from June 6, 2021, and associated costs.
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