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, Mr. Burns. While Burns and Smithers argue about what to do about him, his soul floats out of his body and he ascends a luminous stairway to Heaven. 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 demands that he leave at once, stating they're not interested in Hutz' offer. Dr. Hibbert arrives to gives out his prognosis and that Bart's injuries are minor. 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 and calls Lionel Hutz.
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). But to do it, 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. However, Marge is suspicious and skeptical of his medical qualifications. She decries Dr. Riviera as a fake for exaggerating Bart's condition and quickly confronts Hutz for his actions. Marge reminds him that Dr. Hibbert has been their family physician for years and knows Bart is fine. When Homer tries to denounce Dr. Hibbert, Marge sees the first warning signs of his greed. 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. She and Marge make their objections clear that suing Mr. Burns for the amount of money is wrong 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.
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. However, Marge and Lisa show their shared disgust for Hutz because they're 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 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. He demands to know why Marge wants him to accept the settlement and not wait to be paid the full million like Hutz promised them. Marge reveals she was against suing Mr. Burns from the start and would've been very happy with him paying Bart's medical bills and apologizing for the accident. Homer refuses and wants to hold out for the full million by stating that he knows Mr. Burns is going to lose the case and will have to pay them anyway. Having enough of his behavior, Marge admits she hates the situation for what it's become including Homer's greed, falsified testimony, the dishonest lawyers and the use of "phony doctors". Upon hearing that they are using a quack, Mr. Burns walks back into the room, withdraws his offer and releases the hounds.
The next day in court, Mr. Burns' lawyer calls an unprepared Marge to the stand, much to the shock of everyone. He asks her of her opinion on Dr. Hibbert. Relieved, she explains that she's proud of the fine work that Dr. Hibbert has done and has been there for the family since she became a mother. Mr. Burns' lawyer employs a dirty tactic in feigning shock about hearing "expert" testimony from Dr. Riviera, making 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, stating what her mother taught her to do in not talking about anyone she has nothing nice to say about them. Unconvinced, Mr. Burns' lawyer asks his question again and reminds her that she is under oath. Hutz is concerned because Marge's refusal to lie will destroy the lawsuit and cost them the $1 million. In her testimony, Marge tells the jury the truth by denouncing Dr. Riviera as a quack who isn't a qualified doctor and outlines how limited Bart's injuries actually were given by Dr. Hibbert. She also denounces Lionel Hutz as a dishonest lawyer by revealing he made Bart lie about his injuries and being in intense anguish, when he was really fine. Marge admits to the hardships of the accident, a value of five dollars that they would have paid Bart every week to take the trash out, if he had been able to. A stunned Homer listens in disbelief and betrayal as his chances to win the $1 million slips 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, Mr. Burns offers Homer another check: $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. Ignoring her, Bart mentions that there was a lot of things they could've done with the money, including buying a new house. Having enough of the conversation, Homer leaves and goes to Moe's, unsure if he could ever come home again. Marge suspects what he's about to do from her women's intuition. At the bar, he listens as Moe tries to console him, telling him that rich people aren't happy anyway. Homer ignores him, believing that he would've been much happier with the money. Marge follows him there and apologizes for her testimony, even though she did the right thing by telling the truth. However, Homer is not sure he still loves her after what happened. Marge encourages him to look her in the eye and follow his heart. When Homer looks his wife in the eyes, he says he 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 voices 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.