New Mexico has filed suit against one of the nation’s largest nursing home operators for providing what it claims were inadequate resources that led to poor care and improper billing. One leading patient advocate called the action a “new and novel approach” to the “chronic and longstanding problem of inadequate nurse staffing in nursing facilities.”

Seven nursing homes run by Preferred Care Partners Management Group are named in the lawsuit, which was filed Friday, according to published reports. Preferred Care Partners Management Group is a privately held company with operations in at least 10 states.

The state found deficiencies of as much as 50% in the total hours worked by nursing assistants in the facilities, using a rare formula that computes the time it takes to do basic care chores such as bathing and feeding.

Preferred Care Management Partners, whose attorney was reviewing the claims at press time, has reportedly argued that the allegations cover incidents that occurred at the facilities before existing owners acquired them.

Meanwhile, the Center for Medicare Advocacy hinted the case could have far-reaching implications for the industry.

“The New Mexico litigation, if successful, could be a model for litigation in other states nationwide because it combines information from industrial simulation with facilities’ self-reported staffing and resident assessment data,” CMA stated on Thursday. The organization called inadequate nurse staffing “a pervasive and nationwide problem” and “the most significant predictor of poor care in nursing facilities.”