Knoxville, TN — A Knox County (TN) court approved a settlement brought in a class-action lawsuit against fitness club Court South regarding lifetime memberships at the club, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports.

The nearly three-year dispute over the lifetime memberships began shortly after National Fitness Center owners John and Helen Captain took over Court South in 2005.

The contracts issued by the former owner in the 1980s and early 1990s allowed members to pay a slightly higher up-front price for membership in exchange for a lower fixed rate, which ranged from $10 to $100 per year, according to the newspaper.

Under the terms of the settlement, members who qualify as part of the class will have two options. They can pay a fixed rate of $29.95 a month per person for 15 years or they can pay a staggered yearly amount of $75 the first year, $125 the second year, $200 the third year and $29.95 a month guaranteed for seven years, the newspaper reports.

“I'm not saying you should be happy with this. I'm not saying you should be satisfied. But your alternative could be nothing,” Knox County Chancellor Daryl R. Fansler told about a dozen Court South members at the hearing.

Fansler also said the settlement is aimed at protecting the majority of members who are not able to provide documentation needed to prove their status as a lifetime member.

“We are glad the settlement was approved and look forward to continuing to improve and expand the National Fitness Center/Court South clubs,” says Lewis Howard, attorney for the Captains.

Joe A. Hollingsworth Jr. sold Court South to the Captains in 2005 after purchasing the company in 1993.

“We, as the past owners of Court South, feel that we have done all that we can to push the legal system into making the right decision,” Hollingsworth says. “In our opinion, they came up with the wrong answer for the wrong reasons.”

Only 24 of the 2,500 qualifying members of the lawsuit declined to accept the settlement, the newspaper reported.