Bart is knocked off his skateboard by Mr. Burns in his car. After a brief trip to Heaven, and a slightly less brief visit to Hell, he falls to Earth. With the help of dodgy lawyer, Homer tries to sue Burns for a million dollars. Marge and Lisa discover there are many ways that you can lie, but one way to tell the truth. When Marge is called to the witness stand, she refuses to lie and it leads to Mr. Burns winning the case.
While out riding his skateboard with reckless abandon, Bart is hit by a car driven by Homer's boss, Charles Montgomery Burns. While Burns and his assistant Waylon Smithers, Jr. argue about what to do about him, his soul floats out of his body and he ascends a luminous stairway to Heaven. He spies the rest of the Simpsons' ancestors, including a certain Simpson strangling his son, akin to Homer. When Bart spits over the edge, the stairway turns into a chute and sends him directly to Hell. After the Devil looks over his case history on his computer, he sees that Bart is not due to arrive in Hell for nearly another century. As he begins to regain consciousness, the Devil tells him to be rebellious and listen to heavy metal music. Bart wakes up in a hospital bed with Homer, Marge, Lisa and a strange man hovering over him. Asking the strange man, Lionel Hutz, who he is, Lionel presents Homer with his card and tells him if he wants to make a lot of money, to give him a call. Marge quickly rejects Hutz' offer, stating they're not interested in suing anyone and demands he leave at once. After he leaves, Dr. Hibbert arrives to gives out his prognosis and that Bart's injuries are minor. He advises Marge not to over-mother Bart too much and Homer is hesitant to sue Mr. Burns. Acting on his lawyers’ advice, Mr. Burns offers Homer money to ensure he does not take legal action against him. But he only offers Homer a paltry $100. He turns it down because it barely covers Bart's medical bills. Burns being an extortionist, quickly throws Homer out of his office. Undaunted and ignoring Marge's warning against the latter, he calls Lionel Hutz to take him up on his offer.
After learning that Homer is going to sue him, Mr. Burns becomes furious and decides to fire him. After Smithers reminds him that firing a man whose son he hit with a car would be bad for his image, Burns has no choice but to settle the lawsuit in court or talk the Simpsons out of it.
At Hutz's office, he assures Homer that if he does exactly what he says, he can get a settlement for a million dollars (of which he gets 50% as part of his fee). However in order to succeed, Bart has to lie about the extent of his injuries. To further stack the deck in their favor, Hutz uses the legal testimony of a shady doctor, Dr. Nick Riviera, to come up with his own diagnosis. Though he succeeds and puts Bart in bandages, Marge is skeptical of his medical qualifications and is convinced that he is a fake. She decries Dr. Riviera as a quack for exaggerating Bart's condition and quickly confronts Hutz for his actions. Marge tells him that Dr. Hibbert has been their family physician for years and knows Bart is fine. When Homer tries to denounce Dr. Hibbert by claiming him to be too boring, Marge sees the first warning signs of his greed and is horrified by the fact he is encouraging their son to lie. Later on at the Simpson House, Hutz coaches Bart on exaggerating his condition to help win the jury's sympathy. However, Marge's suspicions doesn't go unnoticed as Lisa also sees what they're doing is wrong and dishonest. They make their objections clear that they're against suing Mr. Burns and demands Bart tells the truth in court. Hutz quickly dismisses them, but his claims in what he does is "truth" does little to convince Marge and Lisa otherwise. The Simpson women are more convinced that everything they're doing is still lying and dishonest.
Both Bart and Mr. Burns present exaggerated, outrageous memories of the accident on the stand. However, the civil jury is more accepting of Bart's fabricated story and shows sympathy for him. Whereas, Marge and Lisa show their shared disgust for Hutz because they're the only ones in the courtroom still convinced that he made Bart lie. Things seem to be looking up for Hutz and Homer. After the trial, Mr. Burns is seen yelling at his lawyers when they suggest a settlement because the civil jury hates him.
In a last attempt to get them to drop the lawsuit, he invites Homer and Marge to his home. He offers them $500,000 to settle the case and then leaves the room to let them discuss it. Burns listens in on their conversation in the next room by looking through the cut-out eyes of a painting. Back in the living room, Marge is feeling guilty for both being dishonest and lying in court. She pleads with Homer to drop the case and accept the money. Mr. Burns has a panic attack when he hears Homer openly and abrasively objects to her request. Homer demands to know why Marge wants him to accept the settlement and not wait to be paid the full million like Hutz promised them. Angered by this, Marge reveals she and Lisa were against suing Mr. Burns from the start. She says they would've been happier with settling the case with him rather than let this go to court. Marge also wants Homer to accept the generous settlement so they can move on with their lives. He refuses by stating that he knows Mr. Burns is going to lose the case and will have to pay them the full million anyway. Having enough, Marge admits she dislikes the situation for what it's become including his greed, the falsified testimony, the dishonest lawyers and using fake doctors with shady medical qualifications. Mr. Burns overhears that Homer and Hutz are using a quack and he gets an idea to win the case. He returns with Smithers just in time to catch Homer and Marge arguing. Marge still insists they should accept the money and closes the argument by saying if the decision were left to her: she'd accept the $500,000 settlement so they can pay off Bart's medical bills and have Mr. Burns apologize for the accident so she can send Hutz on his way out with nothing. Mr. Burns announces that he has withdrawn his offer and claims they should let a jury decide in court. He then sends both Homer and Marge on their way out by releasing the hounds.
The next day in court, Mr. Burns' lawyer calls an unprepared Marge to the stand, much to the shock of everyone. After taking the oath to tell the truth, she sits on the witness stand. Mr. Burns' lawyer starts off his interrogation by asking Marge of her opinion on Dr. Hibbert. Relieved, she explains she's proud of the fine work that Dr. Hibbert has done. Marge admits that Hibbert has been there for her family ever since she was a mother and knows he is a good physician with real medical qualifications. Soon Mr. Burns' lawyer employs a dirty tactic in feigning shock about hearing "expert" testimony from Dr. Riviera and this makes Hutz extremely nervous when he catches people staring behind him in suspicion after hearing Marge's testimony crediting Dr. Hibbert as the Simpsons' real family physician. When asked about her opinion about Dr. Riviera, Marge is hesitant to talk and states the advice her mother gave her in not talking behind someone that she doesn't have anything nice to say about them. Homer has hopes about what she said will hold up and they can still win the case. However, Hutz glumly admits to him it won't do anything for them. He reveals his concerns about losing the case to Burns if Marge refuses to lie and testify against them by telling the truth. Sure enough, Mr. Burns' lawyer asks his question on Marge's opinion on Dr. Riviera again and reminds her that she is under oath. In her testimony, Marge tells the truth by denouncing Dr. Riviera as a quack who isn't a qualified doctor and outlines Dr. Hibbert's earlier prognosis in how limited Bart's injuries actually were. Overhearing this, Homer curses out in anger at her testimony as his chances to win the $1 million begins to slip away. On the other hand and watching Maggie, Lisa is the only one proud of her mother for doing the right thing by telling the truth. Mr. Burns' lawyer decides to play the sympathy card by asking Marge about Bart's mental anguish and her opinion on her lawyer. Out of spite for Homer in going through the lawsuit against her wishes, Marge denounces Hutz as a greedy, dishonest and fraudulent man who isn't a qualified lawyer. She reveals that he made her son to lie about being in intense anguish from his injuries when he was really fine. Homer continues listening in disbelief and Bart feels betrayed by Marge. Mr. Burns' lawyer continues playing the sympathy card by asking Marge to tell the court the dollar amount in the hardships she went through with accident. She admits to the hardships of the accident, a value worth $5 that they would have paid Bart every week to take the trash out, if he had been able to. Marge admits the trouble he caused her with the three days he stayed at home recuperating from the minor injuries(despite understanding that he hates school more than his sister). Watching this, he is now feeling betrayed by Marge as his chances to win the $1 million had slipped away. As a result, Marge's honest testimony destroys Hutz's case and the family gets nothing, though Bart receives good treatment for his injuries. After the case, an overjoyed Mr. Burns offers Homer another check and though it isn't as generous as his first one, he believes it's fair: $0. Realizing they lost the case, Hutz tells Homer they should take it and he reluctantly does.
That night at dinner, a downbeat and angry Homer mentally blames Marge for costing him the $1 million, while maintaining his composure in being polite when she asks him if he wants dinner. Bart breaks the silence by wishing to have won the money from Burns. He is silenced by Marge after she did the right thing to stop the case by telling the truth. Bart mentions there was a lot of things they could've done with the money, even if what they did was dishonest. Having enough of the conversation, Homer goes to Moe's to drown his sorrows and unwilling to return home. Marge suspects what he's about to do from her women's intuition and follows him.
At the bar, he listens as Moe tries to console him, telling him that rich people aren't happy anyway. Homer ignores him, still believing that he would've been much happier with the money because he could've bought a lot of things with it for his family and that he is unsure if he should come home as he continues blaming Marge for her testimony. She arrives at Moe's and apologizes to him for her testimony, even though she maintains did the right thing in telling the truth. However, Homer is unsure if he still loves Marge after all this and the denizens are shocked by it. He admits that he's still angry with her because she betrayed him with her testimony that lead to Mr. Burns winning the case against him. Marge encourages him to look her in the eye and follow his heart. When Homer does, he starts at her feet and her body which he's still convinced of his own anger. He finally looks his wife in the eyes, for a few moments he has a hard time maintaining the anger for he still loves Marge. Homer finally admits that he still loves her more than ever.
The episode's plot was based on Billy Wilder's 1966 film, The Fortune Cookie in which Walter Matthau plays a dishonest lawyer who convinces Jack Lemmon's character to fake an injury for a large cash settlement. While working on the court room scenes, director Mark Kirkland watched To Kill a Mockingbird and The Verdict to get ideas for different angles he could use. Although the episode was written by John Swartzwelder, a lot of the ending was pitched by executive producer James L. Brooks. Brooks felt that the episode needed a more emotional ending, so some shots were reworked so that voice-overs could be added.
The episode includes the debuts of three recurring characters, Lionel Hutz, Dr. Nick and the Blue-haired Lawyer. Lionel Hutz was designed by Mark Kirkland, who gave him an evil design, but was asked to make him more "bland looking." He gave him a powder blue suit to make him stand out more. Phil Hartman, who voiced Hutz, also guest stars for the first time. He would later become one of the most frequently appearing guest stars, with Hutz and Troy McClure (who was introduced later in the second season) being his most well-known characters.
Dr. Nick Riviera is voiced by Hank Azaria, who used a "bad Ricky Ricardo" impression. The animators modeled Dr. Nick after then-supervising director Gabor Csupo, because they mistakenly believed that Azaria was impersonating him. The Blue-haired Lawyer, who does not have a proper name, was based on Roy Cohn, who became famous as Senator Josepth McCarthy's lawyer. His voice, provided by Dan Castellaneta, was also an impression of Cohn. The devil is also shown for the first time, and he was designed by Mark Kirkland, who originally tried to give him a scary design, but the writers asked him to use a more comedic look.
The show's script supervisor at the time Doris Grau also appears in the show for the first time. She was used because of her unique voice, and appears as a minor character in this episode, but would later become known for voicing Lunchlady Doris.